There might only be three matchdays left in the 2009 Russian Premier League season, but absolutely nothing is decided and many prolific showdowns still dot the schedule.
Only two things are certain—Rubin Kazan have clinched a Champions League berth in 2010 for the second consecutive year, and FC Khimki have been relegated to the First Division after only stockpiling 10 points in 27 matches.
So let's take a look and what could be decided this weekend in Russia.
Match of the Week
Rubin Kazan (17-5-5, 1st) at CSKA Moscow (13-5-9, 5th)
Russia's two Champions League participants are set to clash for an afternoon session at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. But for the amount of success Rubin has enjoyed recently, they have not defeated CSKA since April 29, 2006.
That was then, and this is now. And at the moment, both teams are playing the best football of the year. Both clubs are coming off heart-pumping draws with Manchester United and Barcelona, the two Champions League finalists from a season ago.
This matchup will be decided in the midfield. Both teams play solid defensively. But can Rubin's midfield corps provide adequate service in for the two 15-goal strikers, Alejandro Dominguez and Aleksandr Bukharov?
On the other hand, CSKA's midfield duo of Milos Krasic and Alan Dzagoev will be needed if the Army Men want to make anything happen going forward, as their striker carousel just continues to go round and round. Tomas Necid has seen the starts in Champions League play, but Necid and two Brazilians—Carvalho and Guilherme—have seen considerable time up front.
The X-factor might just be Rubin's prowess away from home. So far this season, they have only fallen once in league play away from home.
Prediction: CSKA Moscow 1-1 Rubin Kazan
Spartak Moscow (17-4-6, 2nd) at Krylia Sovetov Samara (9-6-12, 10th)
On paper, Krylia Sovetov doesn't have a prayer at staying with Spartak's high-powered offense. But however, Samara has a history of being able to hang around and keep Valeri Karpin's side in check. When the two sides met up at Luzhniki in late July, Samara actually scored first and left the capital with a 1-1 draw.
But for Spartak, the youth movement is in full swing and the kids are scoring at will. Receiving starting roles have been Pavel Yakovlev (18), Sergei Parshivlyuk (20), Zhano Ananidze (17), Rafael Carioca (20), and Yevgeny Makeev (20). Among all the young talent in Spartak's line, Welliton is well on his way to becoming the second Brazilian-born striker in a row to lead the league in scoring.
He currently has 20 goals and Oleg Veretennikov's modern day league scoring record of 25 goals in sight. With three matches left, it is certainly a possibility at the pace he can fill the net.
Even with new players, the drive to win is always present, as they have been chasing Rubin Kazan for over half the season, coming incredibly close from time to time but the lead has eluded them every one. Now that the difference is down to one point, the "Meat" can almost taste the lead.
Prediction: Krylia Sovetov Samara 0-3 Spartak Moscow
Terek Grozny (9-7-11, 9th) at Zenit St. Petersburg (13-8-6, 3rd)
Zenit's title dreams were effectively demolished in the snow last weekend against FC Moscow, but a Champions League berth in 2010 is still within their grasp. Anatoliy Davydov suffered his first domestic loss of the season and with a depleted lineup due to injuries and Zenit is walking a tightrope over the River Neva.
On the other side, Terek has been in shambles. They have not scored in 220 minutes of play and lost their manager Vyacheslav Hrozny when he resigned on October 20. Their lone victory in October came against relegation side Khimki at the beginning of the month.
Zenit should receive a boost as center-back Fernando Meira returns to the lineup. But the team will need to exorsize some demons, as their visit to Chechnya earlier in the season was a scene right out of a nightmare. Terek scored the go-ahead goal in the 89th minute and then Konstantin Zyryanov was denied a penalty on a Terek handball inside the box in stoppage time.
Only this time, Zenit will have the advantage of Mateja Kezman, who has improved dramatically with every additional match.
Prediction: Zenit St. Petersburg 3-1 Terek Grozny
FC Moscow (13-8-6, 4th) at Kuban Krasnodar (5-9-13, 15th)
FC Moscow is the club that nobody wants to see. They are Russia's pests, sitting in a position to qualify for the Champions League. With a well-organized defense and a counterattack that isn't effective until it's least expected, the Citizens just keep finding ways to win.
Earlier in the season, they obliterated newly-promoted Kuban. But now Kuban, Russia's most athletic team, can't keep balls out of their own net as they've been involved in a number of high-scoring affairs recently.
Prediction: Kuban Krasnodar 2-4 FC Moscow
Amkar Perm (7-8-12, 14th) at Lokomotiv Moscow (12-9-6, 5th)
Last year's surprise team, Amkar Perm, has hardly enjoyed the same success as a season ago when they qualified for the Europa League. They currently sit just a few points above the drop zone and must get a result to stay clear. Oddly enough, their finest performance of the year (a 1-0 home victory over Fulham) meant absolutely nothing.
Opposing their progress is the Lokomotiv, who is nearly unstoppable at their home yard. They haven't lost all season and have scored nearly three quarters of their goals in the comforts of Lokomotiv Stadium.
Prediction: Lokomotiv Moscow 1-1 Amkar Perm
Saturn Moscow (11-6-10, 7th) at FK Rostov (7-10-10, 12th)
The Aliens have silently put together a very solid season and have an honest chance at a Europa League spot if they can bank a couple victories before the season ends. While Saturn haven't had a whole lot of success against upper-level clubs, they have looked like an offensive juggernaut against lower ones.
They hammered four past Rostov earlier, but the plucky Yellows has slain a few giants this year. But they are in a world of misery after suffering enormous defeats at the hands of Rubin and Spartak.
Prediction: Rostov 1-3 Saturn Moscow
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