RPL Matchday 7 Preview: Mirzov’s comeback to Khimki, Lokomotiv newcomers presentation

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We have looked ahead to the upcoming weekend’s Russian Premier Liga matchday seven fixtures to pick out the key plot lines to follow.

Spartak vs Khimki: Mirzov’s second Khimki debut - against parent club Spartak

Reziuan Mirzov has once again headed out on loan, and he returns to his familiar stomping ground of Arena Khimki where he was an integral part of the club’s astonishing revival under Igor Cherevchenko. Last season, Mirzov scored six goals in 18 games after joining Khimki at the same stage in what was one of his most productive spells away from a parent club. 

In fact, 21 of his 24 career goals have been scored while on loan - and it’s fair to say his greatest success has come away from his parent clubs. He equalled his best tally of six goals at Arsenal as he helped them to the club’s highest ever finish, while his winner in the 2018 Russian Cup Final for Tosno saw him lift his only career silverware.

Spartak Moscow could use some of that loan form Mirzov is famous for, having remarkably scored just five goals all season so far - the joint-second lowest tally in the RPL. There is no escaping the pressure on last season’s runners up as they sit a lowly 10th coming out of the first international break, as well as having to cope with losing Aleks Kral to English Premier League side West Ham.

Maximiliano Caufriez is a new face to help bolster the defence as Khimki - who have also struggled for goals with the same number of strikes as Spartak, and lost their second striker to Akhmat over the break in Senin Sebai - come to town. Last season this fixture would have had European contention at stake; as it is, the teams’ true mental character is the key component.

Zenit vs Akhmat: Can Zenit avoid traditional banana-skin against Akhmat?

While Zenit did return to the top of the table after matchday six and are still unbeaten, they’ve not quite had it as much their own way as it might seem. Only two teams outside the bottom five have conceded more goals than the champions, while they’ve only kept one clean sheet so far this campaign.

But Akhmat have proven awkward customers for the St. Petersburg side in the past. Only Moscow clubs Spartak, Lokomotiv and CSKA have a lower losing percentage against them in the RPL, with just 12 of the 28 top-flight clashes ending in Zenit’s favour. Four of the last five fixtures between these two have ended in draws.

Akhmat will be boosted by their growing African contingent, as Ivorian striker Senin Sebai’s arrival compliments the high-profile coaching appointment of Yaya Toure, and Mohamed Konate. Whether their chemistry will happen straight away could be key to the result.

Lokomotiv vs Krylia: Will Lokomotiv’s revolution steam ahead with new signings?

Arguably the busiest club in the summer transfer window was Lokomotiv Moscow, after they added Konstantin Maradishvili, Alexis Beka Beka, Gyrano Kerk, Nair Tiknizyan, Tin Jedvaj and Faustino Anjorin to their ranks. Maradishvili, Kerk and Anjorin could all make their debuts at home to Krylia, with the latter two relatively unknown quantities.

Anjorin’s signing caught the eye particularly for the squad number he has been given. When legendary title winner Dmitry Loskov hung up his boots, his number 10 shirt was retired in his honour; however, such is the esteem tha Chelsea youth prodigy is held in, that he has been granted permission to wear the legendary number of Loskov himself. 

While the Railroaders are one of only two unbeaten sides left after six matches, Krylia are slowly but surely clawing their way into midtable. Three defeats to kick off their return to the RPL was a less than auspicious start. Since then, they have gone unbeaten in three - with three assists from Anton Zinkovsky - winning the last two.

Krylia have a very different looking squad in most respects; they still have the lowest average age of RPL sides, and have the fewest foreigners registered in their first-team squad. With momentum on their side though, Lokomotiv must be careful.

Rostov vs Krasnodar: Krasnodar’s proud record at stake in Battle for the South

Rostov have had to adapt sharply this season already with the departure of valery karpin to take sole charge of the Russian national team, after having been the longest-serving manager in the top flight. Now they have also lost key midfielder Mathias Normann to Norwich, the battle becomes even harder.

Only Arsenal Tula have let in more goals this season than Rostov so far, as the Yellow-Blues sit just above the automatic relegation zone. Against Krasnodar, they have a tricky opponent to turn the season around; in their entire RPL history, Rostov have picked up just one win against their southern rivals.

Two wins in the last three matchdays for Viktor Goncharenko’s side has given them a platform to plan an assault on the European places. They have never lost to Rostov away from home in over a decade , and will be confident of continuing that streak, especially given their hosts’ leaky defence that has conceded more than any other side except Arsenal.


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