Matchday 8 Preview: Krasnodar hunt revenge, Magnificent Monday, Moscow Derby

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We have looked ahead to this weekend’s fixtures in the Russian Premier Liga to bring you the key points to watch out for.

Akhmat vs Krasnodar: Chance for Krasnodar revenge?

Krasnodar’s challenge this season so far has been spearheaded by Colombian powerhouse forward Jhon Cordoba, who has already scored five goals and assisted three more in just seven matches. His support cast will become more and more crucial, however, as the season goes on and players need rotation and rest.

This is where Vladimir Ilyin comes in. The former Akhmat Grozny forward had his own personal best season in the top flight for the Grozny side last campaign to earn him a move across the south of Russia to Krasnodar. So far he is yet to make a start, and although he has come off the bench in every game he still hasn’t found the net for his new side - what better motivation then against his former club?

Both sides battled last weekend, with Krasnodar managing to eke out a point in another southern clash away to Rostov, even though they went down to 10 men after Grzegorz Krychowiak was sent off. Akhmat were unable to match Zenit and find themselves starting to look over their shoulders slightly, but the narrow gap of just one point to Krasnodar make the potential for tension and drama even higher.

If they can match recent history, we’re in for a treat; last time they met, Akhmat romped to their record away win in a 5-0 thrashing in Krasnodar. They have also won their last to home meetings with their fellow southerners, with 11 goals scored between them in the last three. Hold on tight, this could be a rollercoaster.

Sochi vs Dynamo: Can Dynamo break Sochi’s near-flawless home record in European battle?

Sochi are flying once again after a powerful start to the season, having overcome the challenge of their near rivals to stay at the top. When Christian Noboa was in the mood last season, it felt like there were always goals coming, but the squad has evolved into a leaner, even more cosmopolitan version that has another Latin American star up and running in Mateo Cassierra, who scored just 10 minutes into his debut last weekend.

Sitting just two points behind the leaders Zenit but also only two points ahead of Dynamo leaves the tantalising prospect of possibly ending matchday eight top of the table or overtaken by their visitors. Given that in their four league meetings, three have seen both sides score with both sides winning at least once, the amount riding on this clash is significant.

Dynamo are certainly not in crisis, but failing to win this weekend would make it three games in a row without victory, and would see them add extra ground to make up if they want to be serious title contenders. There’s only one problem; Sochi have been beaten at home in the league just once in the last 24 RPL matches.

Ural vs Lokomotiv: Magnificent Monday kicks off with grudge match out east

To say Ural have had a poor start to the season would not be overstating things; bottom of the table, only two goals scored, and already on their second manager of the campaign in Igor Shalimov. They host Europa League entrants Lokomotiv, who rescued a point midweek against Marseille thanks to just one of their exciting new signings in Tino Anjorin.

The history between the sides goes back a few years, perhaps most specifically to the 2017 Russian Cup Final in Sochi which the Railroaders edged with two late goals. The agony of being denied their first major trophy in their long history was painful enough for Ural, but to be beaten in the knockout showpiece again just two years later makes it even harder to take.

Lokomotiv remain unbeaten so far in all competitions, just two points off the top, and with their new signings already emerging as dangerous options. Anjorin’s historic goal - the first by an Englishman for a Russian club - was beautifully taken, and softens the blow of Anton Miranchuk’s injury. 

Although all the signs point towards a victory for Marko Nikolic’s men, they have drawn twice in their last three visits to Ekaterinburg, and know they will have to earn it.

Rubin vs Zenit: Zenit face trip to bogey side Rubin

Not many teams can legitimately stand toe to toe with reigning champions Zenit and come out unscathed, while even fewer could do so repeatedly. Of all sides in the RPL, Rubin have arguably the most dramatic success in recent season against Sergey Semak’s side. 

Back in March the scene was set for the goal of the season. Zenit were holding out for a draw in difficult conditions as the Ak Bars Arena pitch was beginning to cut up, but then along came Denis Makarov in added time. Carrying the ball all by himself with no options to pass, he bobbed, wove, ducked, skipped and danced his way through the heart of Zenit’s defence before slotting home a sensational individual goal to win it for Rubin.

On top of that, Rubin are the only team to have beaten Zenit in St. Petersburg in the last three and a half years. With only a slender one-point advantage at the top of the table, there is little margin for error here. 

CSKA vs Spartak: Classic Capital clash turns more focus on Rui Vitoria’s side

It is highly unusual for CSKA Moscow and Spartak Moscow to meet in a derby match with both teams straddling the middle of the table, and yet here we are. They share an identical results record, have almost the same goal difference (+2 for CSKA, +1 for Spartak), and are both closer to the relegation zone than to the Champions League.

Such is the tough nature of RPL life, that going three games without a win automatically puts the dampeners on any attempts to rise into the European places, yet alone challenge for the title. CSKA were denied by a stubborn Arsenal Tula last weekend, and will now have to manage without Anton Zabolotny after he was injured.

Spartak did restore some pride with a fine performance last weekend at home to Khimki to get back on track, although will still be licking their wounds having lost midweek to a last-gasp Legia Warsaw winner. When it comes to a Moscow derby though, all bets are off - it will all come down to who holds their nerve on the night.

What a way to round off the matchday.

Photos: Magomed Abasov / Akhmat Grozny; Konstantin Rybin / RPL


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