What to look out for on Matchday 13: Karpin to continue record against Spartak, Krasnodar could extend longest winless run in 18 months

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We have gathered together the key aspects to look out for on matchday 13 of the Russian Premier Liga.

Spartak flying - but can former wide man clip their wings?

Valery Karpin brings his Rostov side to the capital this weekend hoping to somehow stop the Spartak juggernaut with more than a passing interest in the hosts. Aside from leading the way in the Russian Premier Liga standings, the Talinn-born coach and ex-player called the club home for a decade in various guises. After leaving his native Estonia for CSKA Moscow - who stand two points behind the Red-Whites in second place as things stand - he moved on to Fakel Voronezh before joining Spartak in 1990, spending four years under the legendary Oleg Romantsev. 

After winning three Russian titles there, he went to Spain where he enjoyed an 11-year career in the top flight with Real Sociedad, Valencia and Celta Vigo. After hanging up his boots, he returned to Spartak as an executive director in 2008, before also taking the reigns as first-team head coach a year later and overseeing 151 official matches over the following five years. 

In December he will complete three years as head coach of Rostov, during which time he has improved their position each season; after steering them clear of relegation ahead of the 2018 World Cup, they finished two places higher last summer before qualifying for this season’s Europa League with a fifth-placed finish in July. Although his side’s recent record against his former employers is impressive - Karpin has only lost once in five league games against Spartak as Rostov boss, winning three of the last four and completing the double over them last season - the immediate task is significant.

Jordan Larsson and Ezequiel Ponce are on scintillating form, having scored 80% of Rostov’s entire total as a team between the pair of them, while they are unbeaten in their last seven home league games. A 3-1 away win over Krasnodar last weekend was particularly noteworthy. What makes their current run of four wins in the last five games even more impressive is that they have only had one home game since August. All of karpin’s ingenuity will be required if he is to conjure up another positive result.

Akhmat aiming to extend Krasnodar’s winless run to longest in 18 months

Bernard Berisha’s inspired individual performance last weekend for Akhmat Grozny was arguably one of the Kosovan’s best since joining the club almost four years ago. Not only did he score twice - the first time he has done so in a single league game in his professional career - he also assisted a third, thus having a hand in three goals directly - another career first. To cap it all off, he was given the captain’s armband when Andrey Semenov was sent off.

When he was finally allowed a moment’s peace on the substitute’s bench, he was visibly spent after his heroics on the pitch. His teammates had him to thank for rescuing all three points, and now look set to launch a challenge on the top half of the table. Krasnodar are their visitors, and come with a significantly contrasting outlook.

The Bulls were picked apart midweek in their historic first home Champions League group-stage match against 2012 winners Chelsea, right on the back of a stark 3-1 defeat to leaders Spartak and an admittedly impressive 1-1 draw away to French side Rennes. Perhaps it is understandable that they are suffering a disrupted run of form given the raft of absentees due to injury and illness, but the fact remains that the last time they went four games in without a win in all competitions was in March 2019.

The only league win they have claimed in the last 10 that wasn’t against a newly promoted side came against Rubin Kazan a fortnight ago. They haven’t beaten a top-half side in 21 RPL matches - in fact, they have only one in over a year - and have already fallen nine points off the pace. Akhmat could leapfrog them in the standings with three points.

RPL’s great entertainers Sochi take on meanest defence

Sochi have defied many expectations since their inception. Firstly, they gained promotion to the top flight at the first time of asking last summer, before even leading the table earlier this season - thanks in no small part to the contributions of the league’s surprise top goalscorer, 35-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder Christian Noboa.

No other team has seen more goals in matches involving them (37 for and against), with Noboa’s personal tally alone equal to over half Lokomotiv’s team total. Both teams have scored in all of the last five Sochi matches, with four of them producing at least four goals. In their last 16 RPL games, there has been just one goalless draw. Ironically, Lokomotiv are the only current RPL side against whom Sochi have never scored (Krylia Sovetov also kept two clean sheets against Sochi last season before getting relegated).

Lokomotiv, meanwhile, have conceded the joint-fewest goals this season so far with nine, but have scored just one more goal than matches played. Only Rotor Volgograd and Ufa have top goalscorers on fewer than Lokomotiv’s (Fedor Smolov on three). If they lose to Sochi, they will drop out of the European places.


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