30.07.2021

Matchday 2 Preview: Karpin and Dzyuba face off; first Moscow Derby

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The new season is in full swing already as we look ahead to the second matchday of the new 2021/22 Russian Premier Liga season.

CSKA vs Lokomotiv: First Moscow Derby of the season!

There’s little doubt which fixture grabs the headline this weekend; the first meeting between Moscow clubs on Saturday evening. Both sides started off with a win on the opening weekend of the season, and both had to overcome stubborn resistance to claim the three points. CSKA relied on debutant - and former youth academy product - Anton Zabolotny’s fine header to break the deadlock, while Marko Nikolic’s men fought back from 1-0 down with 11 minutes to go to burst past 10-man Arsenal Tula.

This fixture is the most common in the Russian top flight. The pair have faced off 61 times in the RPL, with Lokomotiv winning 27 times to CSKA’s 23 - with the Railroaders having had by far the better of recent clashes. CSKA have only registered one win in over four years against Loko, losing all of the last three overall, and three of the last four at home.

The last time in the RPL they met was the 2-0 win for Lokomotiv at the RZD Arena back in February to kick off the spring part of the season. The victory kick-started a remarkable run of eight consecutive RPL wins for the Red-Greens that launched them suddenly into title contention; while it is too early for a result to have a definitive influence on the season, the tone for the summer will be set.

There will be one very familiar face in the Armymen lineup for the visitors; 19-year-old Russia international Maksim Mukhin moved across the capital to the VEB Arena ahead of the new campaign, representing a big coup for Aleksey Berezutsky’s men. World Cup finalist Tin Jedvaj has signed for Lokomotiv and could make his debut.

Rostov vs Zenit: Russia boss Karpin takes on Russia captain Dzyuba

Zenit make the trip down south to take on Rostov in the second outing of the season after escaping from a potential shock at Arena Khimki last weekend. It didn’t take Sardar Azmoun long to get back off the mark to start their comeback following Ilya Kukharchuk’s opener, and in the end the champions were comfortable winners - despite having fewer shots than Khimki. 

His strike partner Artem Dzyuba may not have got on the score sheet then, but he will be more than just a key figure for Rostov players; their manager will be keeping a particularly close eye on him. Valery Karpin will combine the head coach roles at club level with Rostov, and internationally for Russia, so will be keen to see the national team leader, captain and joint all-time top goalscorer in action.

The pair have worked together before at Dzyuba’s first professional club, Spartak Moscow. Then an exciting academy product coming through the system, the current Zenit St. Petersburg talisman struggled to hold down a regular starting place before loan spells at Tom Tomsk and Rostov, but is now an undisputed talisman of Russian football.

Krylia Sovetov vs Spartak Moscow: Returning bridesmaids face their bete noir

Krylia Sovetov are about the most experienced newcomers imaginable. Last season was a triumph as they romped to the FNL title with ease, thanks largely to the record-breaking exploits of top scorer Ivan Sergeev and the tight-knit familiarity of former Chertanovo players and head coach Igor Osinkin, but it was very much the exception to the rule. Only the current four RPL Moscow clubs and Rostov have spent more seasons at the highest level domestically than Krylia.

Given the amount of time they have spent in the RPL, and Spartak’s golden decade of almost unbroken success in the 1990s, it is therefore unsurprising that their record is unfavourable against the Red-Whites. In fact, Krylia have the lowest winning percentage against Spartak than any other club currently in the top flight - with just six wins in 52 meetings, they have a mere 11.5% success rate against last season’s runners up.

Akhmat Grozny flew out of the traps last weekend to burst two goals in front after just 20 minutes against Krylia, but the dominance of possession and attacking intent the hosts continued to show gave a sign of hope. Spartak are smarting after their 1-0 defeat away to Rubin, thanks to Ilya Samoshnikov’s screamer, and will be in no mood to take it easy.

Akhmat Grozny vs Sochi: How will the European marauders fare back home?

Akhmat and Sochi are not seasoned continental campaigners; the former flirted with Europe almost two decades ago after winning the Russian Cup in 2004, making it through the second round of qualifying for the UEFA Cup before being knocked out by Basel. Since then, they haven’t managed to make it back into UEFA competitions.

Sochi, however, are wasting no time in getting a taste for the high life. Three years after forming, they have already completed their first two-legged win in Europe after outclassing Azeri cup winners Kesla 7-2 on aggregate in their second qualifying round of the Conference League. Now the hard graft starts as they learn how to juggle a domestic campaign with the new distraction of midweek games.

The two southernmost sides in the RPL will offer a fascinating insight into how Russia’s representatives in UEFA’s fledgling competition will fare. Coefficient ranking points are vital for Russia’s future prospects and places in continental club football; will Vladimir Fedotov’s side cope with the pressure?

Photo: Artem Gusev / FC Rostov; Konstantin Rybin / RPL


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