Matchday 10 Preview: Berezutsky barnstormer, opposites attract in Moscow, Zenit pressure?

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We have looked ahead to this weekend’s matchday 10 fixtures in the Russian Premier Liga to bring you the key points to look out for.

Dynamo vs Krylia Sovetov: Opposites attract?

At first glance, Dynamo hosting Krylia Sovetov is a match-up of two polar opposites. For starters, their league placements point to a strong advantage for Dynamo; they are second only to Zenit St. Petersburg, and are genuine title contenders, whereas Krylia Sovetov hover ominously close to the relegation playoff zone. No other RPL side has lost more league games than they have so far this campaign either within five other teams.

Scratch a little deeper beneath the surface, however, and there is a lot more at stake here. Dynamo have shown their frailties, despite their high position in the table, having dropped points in two of their last four games. While they did pull off an impressively confident 2-0 win against fellow continental challengers Rubin in their last home game, their previous home fixture saw them lose to new boys Nizhny Novgorod.

Krylia arrive in the capital off the back of a loss last weekend, but as defeats go, it was about as encouraging as they come. Losing to consecutive champions Zenit away from home carries no shame in itself, and the 2-1 scoreline showed how close it was. Add in the fact that they even took the lead, and their 14 goals in the previous two competitive matches, and the threat is more obvious.

Dynamo haven’t romped to a heavy win yet this season so far, only scoring once in all but one of their last six RPL games, so the visitors might sense a chance to spark an upset. 

CSKA vs Krasnodar: Berezutsky family feud?

Arguably the tie of the weekend pits two in-form sides racing neck-and-neck for the all-important top four places against each other, as CSKA welcome back their former manager Viktor Goncharenko with his Krasnodar side. The bigger reunion, however, sees an even closer link: for only the second time in their professional careers as both players and coaches, Vasily and Aleksey Berezutsky will be opponents.

This will be the first time with both as either head or assistant coaches though, so there is a more direct element of added spice to this. Both have helped preside over an upturn on form with two consecutive wins apiece, and both are scoring freely - Krasnodar are the second-highest scorers in the RPL behind Zenit, while CSKA are joint-fourth highest. 

As we complete the first third of the RPL season, these two teams arm flying so close in the table that the stakes here - despite being relatively early in the grand scheme of things - are very clear. Identical win/draw/loss figures, identical points - and identical ambitions. The Armymen have had no involvement in Europe for the first time in 20 seasons, while Krasnodar crashed out unceremoniously from the Europa League back in February. 

Six of the last seven RPL meetings between the teams have seen both sides score; both have scored seven unanswered goals in their last three competitive matches; both have legends the home fans know well - expect fireworks.

Zenit vs Sochi: Pressure - what pressure?

In recent years, Zenit St. Petersburg have enjoyed unparalleled domestic success, racking up three league titles, two Russian Super Cups and a Russian Cup in the last three years. In truth, title challenges have been swatted away without too much trouble in the end. Admittedly Europe has proven a frontier too far, but even there Sergey Semak’s men have broken a long-running hoodoo this week with a comprehensive 4-0 win against Malmo in the Champions League.

So what is the pressure? Surely there is none at fortress Gazprom Arena, where Zenit have won their last eight RPL games in a row, especially against a side that has not scored and has lost in both of their last two games? When that side, Sochi, have also lost every league clash against Zenit too, one could be forgiven for doubling down on the champions.

It would take a brave man to bet against them of course, but as always in the Russian Premier Liga, nothing is quite as simple to predict as it seems. For starters, there is the unusual defensive record of Zenit’s, that has seen them fail to keep a clean sheet in all but one of their RPL games this season, as well as concede the joint-most in the top half of the table.

Then there is the wild unpredictability of Sochi. Their season has been all or nothing; alongside Akhmat, they are the only side yet to draw a game after nine matchdays, and haven’t had the same result in consecutive away games since April. The pressure, then, is to not let their challengers back into contention.

Lokomotiv vs Rostov: Full steam ahead for Railroaders?

The brakes have been gently applied to Lokomotiv’s momentum of late. Although they remain unbeaten this season, they have now drawn five games already - the same number they drew in the whole of last season - with three of those coming in the last four games alone. With the relentless form of Zenit, a title challenge can scarcely find room for dropping points this regularly early on.

It depends on perspective in one sense. Marko Nikolic has made his side consistently hard to beat since taking over, and the full potential of his young signings has not had time to be fully unleashed yet. The depth in quality in the side is something that will begin to pay dividends as the campaign wears on.

This would have been a Yuri Semin derby of course, if the legendary former Lokomotiv head coach had not resigned from Rostov a fortnight ago. Caretaker boss Zaur Tedeev was thrown in at the deep end with barely a day to prepare for his first game in charge, and will find it an unforgiving environment to try and get his side off the mark.

There is little room for forgiveness when times are tough at this level. Already suffering with the joint-worst defensive record in the league, Rostov also now have Ural are now breathing down their necks after finally winning their first game of the season. A gruelling trip to Rome midweek for hosts Lokomotiv offers a glimmer of hope for the beleaguered southerners - it will take every ounce of concentration and inspiration to prevent Lokomotiv steaming ahead. 


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