RFPL Week 1: Betting Advice & Previews

Arena Khimki Dinamo

Dinamo Moscow supporters at Arena Khimki. Photo: Toke Theilade/RFN

Game of the Round: Tuesday 17:30 BST: Dinamo Moscow – Spartak Moscow

By Artëm Makarevitch (@AMakarevitch)

After an eight-week long break, the Russian Football Premier League is finally getting back in action this weekend, and the fixture list has treated us with a Moscow derby in the first round. A fixture with a historic background, the game between last year’s first and second tier league champions, Spartak and Dinamo, will take place at the Arena Khimki. With both teams hoping to get their season off to a good start, and the added emotions of the derby, this game should be one of the most exciting matches in game week one.

READ MORE: Spartak – Dinamo: Moscow’s Forgotten Derby

How will Dinamo fare back in the top flight?

After getting relegated to the FNL in the 2015/16 season, Dinamo Moscow didn’t take long to prove that they belong in Russia’s top flight, finishing a head above all their opponents in the second tier the next season despite losing some of their key players.

This summer they have brought in some players with RFPL experience; signing their top scorer from last season, Kirill Panchenko, on a permanent deal. As well as this, they have managed to bring in Wanderson from Krasnodar and Toni Sunjic, who played for Kuban in 2015.

A realistic finish for Dinamo this season would be mid table, however, their expectations could quickly change based on how they perform in the first few weeks. The match against Spartak will be the perfect test for them at the start of the season, and if they manage to get a result, it will fill their team with confidence for the next few weeks.

Spartak will look to retain the title

Despite not making any big signings yet this summer, Massimo Carrera has been able to keep his title winning team together, holding on to key players, and most importantly, Quincy Promes.

Carrera’s team have won two out of their three friendlies in pre-season, and are yet to play a match against Yuri Semin’s Lokomotiv in the Russian Super Cup four days before the game against Dinamo. The Super Cup match will give them an idea of the squad’s match fitness, but may also be a burden as players don’t have much time to recover.

How much will Spartak miss Zobnin?

In the lead up to the Confederations Cup, one of Spartak’s most important players last season, Roman Zobnin, ruptured his cruciate ligament, which is predicted to set him back until at least the winter break. Last season, he was an influential figure in Spartak’s midfield on their way to the title, playing 29 of their 30 league games. It remains to be seen how he will be replaced, whether it will be a straight swap with another player or a change in tactics.

Expected Lineups:

Dinamo (4-4-2): Shunin – Kozlov, Holmen, Sunjic, Morozov – Ionov, Sapeta, Sosnin, Tashaev – Panchenko, Wanderson

Spartak (4-2-3-1): Rebrov – Eshchenko, Kutepov, Bocchetti, Kombarov – Glushakov, Fernando – Promes, Popov, Jano – Adriano

Betting Advice:

This will be a huge game for both teams, as they try to pick up their first points of the season. Although Spartak have the Super Cup to play just a few days before this game, I don’t think it will affect them too much. I expect Spartak will win this one.

Bet €10 on Spartak to win @2.00 at Bet365

Saturday 13:00 BST: FC Ural – FC Rostov

By Andrew Flint (@AndrewMijFlint)

While most of the transfer hustle and bustle has predictably taken place at the business ends of the table, Ural have been quietly resuming life without too much change to their squad. Roman Pavyluchenko has been replaced by Igor Portnyagin, who’s in desperate need of a kickstart to his career after a wasted year at Lokomotiv, Varazdat Haroyan comes in for Alexander Novikov and former Zenit youngsters Aleksey Evseev and Yuriy Bavin bolsters the midfield. With Giorgi Chanturia and Aleksandr Stavpets to come back from long-term injuries, Alexander Tarkhanov has a reasonably strong squad to count upon.

Rostov on the other hand have been gutted from bow to stern after the departure of most of their first-choice starting XI, and more importantly tactical mastermind Kurban Berdyev.

Betting Advice: €10 on Ural to win @2.30 at Bet365

Saturday 15:30 BST: FC Tosno – FC Ufa

By Vincent Tanguy (@Spartak_M_VT)

This is Tosno’s first ever home game in the top flight. Just a few years after the club was founded, they are now up with the big boys. Obviously, pressure is on Ufa, who are favourites for the game, and the guests needs to put points on the table straight away as both teams are expected to struggle this season.

Betting advice: €10 on draw @3.10 at Bet365

Saturday 18:00 BST: Anzhi Makhachkala – CSKA Moscow

By Andrew Flint (@AndrewMijFlint)

Alexander Girgoryan’s madcap world thunders on as Anzhi begin the new season on the back of yet another fire sale – this summer’s transfer window has brought the total number of transfers to an astonishing 96 in the last three windows combined. No wonder the eccentrically tetchy Armenian supremo is overseeing one of the least stable playing squads in the Russian Football Premier League. Last season’s nail-biting survival will hardly provide any confidence; however, they have made one of the more astute signings by bringing in the timeless experience of proven goalscorer Khasan Mamtov.

In CSKA they could not be facing a more different opponent in almost every sense. With no actual permanent arrivals, their squad has shrunk even more compared to last summer after the release of Zoran Tosic, the end of Alexey Ionov’s loan and the continuation of Roman Eremenko’s two-year ban. However, even if they cannot boast a deep squad, they have a settled starting lineup with the sparkling ingredient of Fyodor Chalov, who is sure to break through even more this term. Although facing Anzhi away is never usually a comfortable fixture for the more northern clubs, it would be a shock if CSKA didn’t take all three points – but don’t be surprised if Grigoryan’s new striker has a say first.

Betting advice: €10 on CSKA to win and both teams to score @4.5 at Bet365 

Sunday 09:00 BST: SKA Khabarovsk – Zenit St. Petersburg

By Thomas Giles (@Thomas_Giles_UK)

This match sees two completely contrasting teams take each other on as SKA Khabarovsk, the RFPL’s most easterly club, host Zenit St. Petersburg, the league’s most westerly club. The former are simply looking to survive in the division this season whilst the latter are hoping to mount a title challenge.

Travelling across seven time zones to his first match in the Premier League is certainly an odd welcome to the Russian Premier League for new Zenit manager Roberto Mancini.

This is a great RFPL debut game for SKA as they welcome one of the biggest clubs in the country to the Lenin Stadium. Hopefully the likely bumper crowd for this opener will stick by Aleksei Poddubskiy’s side for the whole season.

However, it looks like it will be a difficult campaign for SKA as they have not improved their rather poor frontline during this summer window whilst their defence has lost a couple of key men. Having said that, the Far East factor could really benefit them in this first game, especially in front of a bumper crowd.

New Zenit manager Roberto Mancini is under a lot of pressure this season after splashing the cash this summer. If they fail to mount a serious title challenge then big questions will be asked of the Italian. Last season we saw Zenit get off to a rather poor start under Mirceu Lucescu which set the tone for the rest of the dismal season – Mancini must make sure this is not the case again.

Zenit have spent a lot of money this summer but most of it on the frontline rather than a defence which has looked dodgy for a couple of years.

In terms of this match, I expect there to be a few goals. SKA’s defence is looking weak and that Zenit frontline looks like one of the most lethal in the league. However, do not underestimate SKA’s ability to take advantage of Zenit’s long journey. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that SKA had a good home record at the back end of last season.

Betting advice: €10 on over 2.5 goals @2.07 at Bet365

Sunday 15:30 BST: Rubin Kazan – FC Krasnodar

By Artëm Makarevitch (@AMakarevitch)

This summer has already been a busy one for Rubin Kazan, who welcomed Kurban Berdyev back to the club. The Turkmen specialist didn’t come back empty handed either, bringing Kudryashov, Granat, Dzhanaev, and Azmoun with him from Rostov.

Krasnodar have also made some signings, including Renat Yanbaev and Mihailo Ristic, but their most notable arrival so far has been Wanderson from RB Salzburg, who coincidently plays in the same positions as the Wanderson they have just released to Dinamo Moscow.

Krasnodar have already suffered a blow leading up to the new season. Their top scorer, Fyodor Smolov, is out injured for at least the first two games of the new campaign, meaning one of their other forwards has some big shoes to fill while he’s out.

With Berdyev’s defensive tactics and Smolov’s injury, I don’t think this game will be high scoring. Neither team will want to lose this one, so I think it will end as a draw.

Bet €10 on a 1-1 draw @5.50 at Bet365

Sunday 19:30 BST: Akhmat Grozny – Amkar Perm

By Thomas Giles (@Thomas_Giles_UK)

This match sees two of the Premier League’s more solid sides come head-to-head as newly-named Akhmat Grozny host Amkar Perm.

Akhmat have been relatively quiet in the transfer window so far; bringing in players with no RFPL experience. However, they have appointed an experienced head coach in Oleg Kononov, who will be keen to show what he can do after his harsh dismissal from Krasnodar last year.

Home form has usually been very reliable for the Chechen side and, although it suffered a bit last season, they will see this match as a good opportunity to get an early three points on the board.

Amkar are one of those teams that are unlikely to be troubled by relegation but are also unlikely to really push the top teams for those European spots.

Like Akhmat, they have not been particularly busy in this transfer window, getting rid of dead wood and bringing in a few players on free transfers. However, they have a solid spine in Perm so why upset the applecart?

Betting advice: Akhmat to win @1.85 at Bet365

Tuesday 17:30 BST: Lokomotiv Moscow – Arsenal Tula

By Vincent Tanguy (@Spartak_M_VT)

Lokomotiv are starting the season home against Arsenal Tula. After the defeat against Spartak in the Super Cup Friday evening, the Railroaders are under pressure from the beginning, and Semin needs to find a way to get a win in the opening week.. With new players (Solomon Kvirkvelia and Igor Denisov) and players who stayed as Ari, Semin can organize another strategy boast a relatively strong squad.

On the other hand, Arsenal Tula had a calm transfer window, but have a new and experienced head coach in Miodrag Bozovic, who coached Lokomotiv a few seasons ago. Nevertheless, they are among the favourites for relegation, and their squad lacks profiles.

Betting advice: €10 Lokomotiv to win @1.5 at Bet365

RFN Total: +€343.99 

Vincent Tanguy: +€184.65 (hit rate: 12/27) 

Thomas Giles: +€113 (hit rate 20/35) 

David Sansun: +€102.45 (hit rate: 15/46)

Ben Clark: +€101 (hit rate: 12/32) 

Jack Beresford: +€75.7 (hit rate 4/9) 

Andrew Flint: €35.1 (hit rate: 15/50) 

Lukas Müller: €3 (hit rate: 2/10) 

Stefano Conforti: +€0.5  (hit rate: 3/9)

Danny Armstrong: -€8 (hit rate: 2/6)

James Nickels: -€29.7 (hit rate: 6/12) 

Artëm Markarevitch: -€35.6 (hit rate: 3/10)

Martin Lowe: -€38.5 (hit rate: 3/10)

Toke Theilade: -€51.11 (hit rate: 7/21) 

Ilya Sokolov: -€79.4 (hit rate: 10/40) 

Author: Andrew Flint

I moved out to Russia in 2010 to teach English because it sounded like fun, then I met and fell in love with FC Tyumen (and my wife!) and decided to stay. Surprisingly, I turned out to be the only English person remotely interested in a Siberian third-tier club, but then who wouldn’t fall for a grizzly Georgian midget, a flying Brazilian and Tyumen’s 93rd most influential figure…

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