Russian Premier League: Matchday 18 Preview

Sergey ZikovSenior Analyst IAugust 15, 2009

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JULY 26:  Rafael Carioca of Spartak Moscow rises above Alan Dzagoev (R) of CSKA Moscow during the Russian Football League Championship match between CSKA Moscow and Spartak Moscow at the Luzhniki Stadium on July 26, 2009 in Moscow, Russia.  (Photo by Dmitry Korotayev/Epsilon/Getty Images)

As many other top leagues around Europe kick off this weekend, the Russian Premier League season is already more than halfway over.

Matchday 18 throws all of the games into a "Big Sunday," including several very important matches.

Let's take a look.


FC Moscow (8-6-3) at Spartak Moscow (10-3-4)

The biggest match of the week by a mile, it also carries the most importance. Spartak sits in second place, one point behind league-leading Rubin Kazan. But they might have to do without Russian international midfielder Vladimir Bystrov. Bystrov had some muscle pain after Spartak's 4-2 victory over Spartak Nalchik and sat out Russia's friendly with Argentina.

Spartak however, has exploded in the past several weeks, as they have not lost in a month and a half. Brazilian striker Welliton has scored five times in the past two matches and will no doubt be at the center of Spartak's attack once more.

FC Moscow on the other hand, has not looked so sharp. They are coming off a 3-1 defeat at home at the hands of Rubin Kazan and look to rebound. They also lost towering presence Hector Bracamonte to Terek Grozny.

Spartak has been rampant at home, scoring 20 times while only allowing five goals. FC Moscow, well, have not been great on the road.

Prediction: Spartak Moscow, 3-0.


CSKA Moscow (9-3-5) at Lokomotiv Moscow (6-7-4)

Lokomotiv is another streaking team, as they have bagged points in their last five matches. But CSKA can hit stride on any given weekend and play absolutely dominant football. Which team will show up? The one who beat Rubin Kazan's brains out in the second half, or the one who struggled through Tomsk?

The man with the blue hair is the most electrifying player in the league on most occasions. That would be Vagner Love of CSKA. The Brazilian has been linked to huge clubs all over Europe over the last few months, but he still remains in Moscow. And while he's still there, CSKA remain dangerous.

It's not as big as the annual Moscow Derby between CSKA and Spartak, but this one can get blood pumping too. CSKA will also look to show off their new toy, former Real Betis midfielder Mark Gonzalez. The 25-year-old joins an already gifted midfield that includes Alan Dzagoev and Pavel Mamaev.

Prediction: Draw, 2-2.


Zenit St. Petersburg (6-6-5) at Amkar Perm (4-6-7)

There isn't a Russian club who is in the news more than Zenit right now. The Sky Blues have released long-time coach Dick Advocaat, lost Pavel Pogrebnyak to Stuttgart, and added a high-profile transfer in Alessandro Rosina. Even so, they are guaranteed to still have another addition in their pockets.

Zenit couldn't be playing much worse now, but there's nothing like a match with a team sitting just above the relegation line to regain some confidence. But then again, Tom Tomsk is no better and Zenit fell to them 2-0 at home last week.

Under new caretaker Anatoliy Davydov, Zenit should certainly benefit from another week in practice with Rosina and Sergei Kornilenko.

Amkar is surprisingly average at home compared with other bottom teams, they are led by 35-year-old Bulgarian striker Martin Kushev. Commonly starting three strikers in a 3-4-3 formation, it's surprising they don't concede more goals than they do.

Prediction: Zenit St. Petersburg, 2-0.


Terek Grozny (6-6-5) at Rubin Kazan (10-4-3)

League leading Rubin Kazan once again doesn't get a week off. Coming off a defeat to Saturn Moscow Oblast, Rubin now only holds a one-point lead over Spartak. Oddly enough, Rubin is a better road team and Terek is a much better home team.

Rubin fields one of the league's leading scorers in Argentine Alejandro Dominguez and, with solid leadership from former Russia captain Sergei Semak, will certainly not be looking past a tough Terek side. They managed to go into Chechnya and come away with three points, so in theory, doing it at home should be easier.

Terek Grozny has been very good since the midsummers' break, defeating Zenit and Dinamo Moscow while forcing a draw with CSKA Moscow away from home. They will be bolstered by Bracamonte, but it is doubtful that he plays.

Terek also fields one of the top scorers in Romanian Gabriel Pancu, who has lit the scoreboard six times this season.

Prediction: Rubin Kazan, 4-3.


Dinamo Moscow (8-3-6) at FK Rostov (5-7-5)

Dinamo is coming off a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Celtic in Champion's League qualifying, but remains a tough outfit. Led by Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who has found new life since returning to Russia from Sevilla, Dinamo looks to dominate once more at home.

Rostov defeated 16th-place Khimki 2-0 last week, but that result is not enough to hide their dreadful performances since July. Apart from those two goals, Rostov has been outscored 7-0 in its last four contests.

Prediction: Dinamo Moscow, 1-0.


Spartak Nalchik (1-8-8) at Saturn Moscow Oblast (6-5-6)

Saturn has been absolutely on fire, scoring at least twice in each of its last four matches. Their suddenly brilliant offense coupled with their band box stadium makes for a very tricky environment for an opponent.

Not a great formula for Spartak Nalchik, who hasn't won away from home. In fact, they've only collected three points in nine attempts. Artem Kontsevoy leads a dismal offense with three scores.

Prediction: Saturn Moscow Oblast, 4-1.


Kryliya Sovetov Samara (6-3-8) at Khimki (2-4-11)

Some streak has to break here. Kryliya was one of the best teams in the league in mid-May, but has completely fallen off since then. They have now lost five of their past six. Khimki however, isn't much better. But they aren't completely horrific at home.

The lone bright spot for Khimki has been Viktor Boudyanskiy, who transferred from Lecce before the season began.

Prediction: Draw, 1-1.


Kuban Krasnodar (3-6-8) at Tom Tomsk (5-5-7)

Despite this being a matchup of two of the worst teams in the league, it could be quite entertaining. Kuban has allowed 20 road goals this season, while Tomsk has allowed 14 goals at home.

Kuban hasn't won in eight matches, while Tom has remarkably played well of late. After pushing CSKA to the limit two weeks ago, they snatched a 2-0 victory in St. Petersburg. Despite nearly being in bankruptcy, Tomsk has played its best football of the season.

Prediction: Tom Tomsk, 3-2.


Player of the Week: Alejandro Dominguez, Rubin Kazan.

He tortured Terek Grozny in their first meeting. He'll have an easier day playing at home and now that he is back into match form after missing a few weeks.


Team of the Week: Saturn Moscow Oblast.

If there's a team to slow them down at home, it wouldn't be Spartak Nalchik.


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