24.04.2021

What to look out for on Matchday 27: Spartak’s last Moscow Derby, Dynamo welcome old hosts, Third time lucky for Goncharenko

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We have picked out the key plot lines to watch out of on matchday 27 of the Russian Premier Liga.

Spartak’s last Moscow Derby of the season

Domenico Tedesco has one last chance to draw blood in the battle for Moscow as his Spartak side welcome CSKA to the Otkritie Arena. The mini-league table between Spartak, CSKA, Lokomotiv and Dynamo has been predictably close this season, with the Railroaders top on nine points, followed by Spartak on seven points. CSKA and Dynamo bring up the rear, but both have played one game fewer.

Lokomotiv are the only side to have kept a clean sheet at home against their cross-city rivals so far. Spartak themselves have let in eight goals - the most among capital clubs - and haven’t managed a single clean sheet in Moscow encounters, just like CSKA. 

There is an element of last chance saloon about the fixture for Spartak too in the bigger picture. If their result is worse than Zenit’s their title challenge will officially be over. Far from signalling the end of motivation for them though; second place and Champions League football is still very much up for grabs, with the gap to in-form Lokomotiv only two points. 

If Red-White fans are looking for inspiration, they could turn to the Youth Championship fixture between the two clubs earlier this week. True to form both sides scored, but Spartak did come out on top. Now it’s over to their senior counterparts.

RPL top scorers to run riot against goal-shy Rotor?

Zenit St. Petersburg again boast a wealth of goalscoring power in the Russian Premier Liga. In fact, such is the disparity in front of goal that they have two players, Sardar Azmoun and Artem Dzyuba, who have scored more goals individually than the entire Rotor Volgograd squad put together. As a whole team, Zenit have scored 10 more goals than the next most prolific side, Spartak Moscow.

Azmoun currently tops the scoring charts, like he did at the end of last season, on 16 goals with four games left to play after starting the comeback away to FC Krasnodar last weekend. Dzyuba is second on 13 goals, four short of his and Azmoun’s total from 2019/20. They even top the assists list too through left-back Douglas Santos, who has now supplied seven goals, one more than Ilya Kukharchuk and Christian Noboa.

They can’t mathematically seal the title this weekend; their six-point gap before matchday 27 could be extended to nine if they win while Lokomotiv lose and Spartak drop points, but they still have to host Marko Nikolic’s men next weekend in what could be the championship decider.

By contrast, Rotor Volgograd haven’t scored a single goal in their last six league games. All hope is not lost however; they are only two points from safety, and although their prospects of beating Zenit away from home are slim, they can draw some hope from the fact that their illustrious hosts have only kept three clean sheets in over a year of home league matches.

Dynamo Moscow welcome old hosts Khimki

It wasn’t that long ago that Dynamo Moscow were playing in very different surroundings to their current home, the magnificent VTB Arena. While construction was underway on redeveloping the sit of their historic ground, they set up shop at Arena Khimki itself - ground sharing with CSKA Moscow for a number of years.

Dynamo are on the verge of a full return to European football for the first time since the 2014/15 season. Last season they fell at the first hurdle of Europa League qualifying to Lokomotiv Tbilisi, while this time they could still easily finish anywhere between the Champions League, the inaugural Conference League, or out of continental competition altogether. Rubin Kazan and CSKA share the same number of points as things stand, stretching from fourth to Dynamo in sixth, so it could hardly be tighter.

Khimki have confounded pre-season expectations with some sensational form under Igor Cherevchenko. The Moscow Region side are in the top half of the table eight points further back from Dynamo, and although their dreams of Europe will almost certainly remain just that, they could have a huge say in the fate of their former tenants.

Third time lucky for Goncharenko?

FC Krasnodar have had a transitional season as they’ve adapted to life without Murad Musaev as head coach, not to mention major injuries to key players. Dmitry Stotsky only just returned to fitness recently after almost a year and a half out for example, while Ari, Sergey Petrov, Cristian Ramirez and Viktor Claesson have all missed significant chunks through injury.

New manager Viktor Goncharenko came within a whisker of a stunning first win in charge of the Bulls last weekend as his side raced into a two-goal lead against runaway leaders Zenit, only to be pegged back with two late goals for the champions. His debut away to Arsenal Tula ended in defeat, leaving him still waiting for a first win. 

Traveling to take on Rubin Kazan will be no easy feat though. Rubin have enjoyed some fine form since the winter break and have been rewarded with a top-four spot for the final run-in; even in close matches, like last weekend’s gritty performance away to Ural Ekaterinburg, they have found the resolve to pull a moment of inspiration out of nowhere.

Inspiration will be a little harder to come by with the absences of key wingers Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Denis Makarov, through injury and suspension respectively, so there may be a glimmer of hope for Krasnodar to finally get a win on the board under their new boss.


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