Champions League Preview: Sevilla – Spartak Moscow

Quincy Promes in action against Rubin Kazan in September. Photo: Epsilon.

Spartak Moscow travels to Spain on Tuesday night, facing off against Sevilla at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium. Despite the 5-1 thrashing two weeks ago at the Otkrytiye, it will be a difficult night for the Red-Whites. Sevilla are fifth in La Liga and will be able to call upon the services of star man Steven N’Zonzi, who has been influential in midfield for Los Rojiblancos so far this season. Spartak themselves are still on a thirteen match unbeaten run, scoring twelve goals in their last four games in all competitions, thus it will be a tight game.

 

Tactical Analysis

T. Bert Lance, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget in Jimmy Carter’s 1977 administration claimed; ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. As such, Massimo Carrera should go with a similar approach that brought Spartak such a dominant victory in the last round. Quincy Promes was at the focal point for everything good in one of the best second halves in the history of Russian teams in Europe.

The first, however, should be a stark warning to Carrera and his players, as Sevilla and particularly Wissam Ben Yedder tore the team apart from a number of times only to be stopped by sheer dumb luck or an in-form Aleksandr Selikhov.

Nevertheless,  expect Spartak to counter in their usual style. Carrera relies upon his two centre-backs to progress the ball higher up the pitch, Serdar Tasci and Georgi Dzhikiya, shift wide as the fullbacks push up high and Fernando drops deep to provide vertical, penetrative passing lanes very similar to Conte’s Chelsea. Dzhikiya is particularly impressive at progressing the ball up the pitch by advancing with the ball at feet through half-spaces, which is why he was preferred to Ilya Kutepov during the run-in last season and kept his place ever since. Fernando dictates Spartak’s style of play and tempo with his keen ball retention and physical abilities while Denis Glushakov breaks forward as a box-to-box midfielder roaming between the half-spaces and eases the pressure upon Fernando. Luiz Adriano up front has the same job as Diego Costa; to drop deep, hold-up the ball and drag defenders out of position to create space for Promes, Melgarejo and Popov to exploit, with late runs from Glushakov. Dima Kombarov and Andrey Yeschenko provide the width as the two attacking wingers cut-in to overload these half-spaces vacated by Luiz Adriano.

This tactic caused the makeshift Sevilla defence a number of massive problems last time out, and expect the same again now. It’s all determined whether or not Spartak’s shaky defence can hold out against an in-form Ben Yedder and lightning fast attack.

 

Team News

Massimo Carrera will definitely be without ACL injury victims Artyom Timofeev and Georgi Tigiev, as well as Jano Ananidze and Aleksandr Samedov who also miss out through respective injuries. The game came just too early for Roman Zobnin. Ze Luis, Yeschenko and Artyom Rebrov, who were all doubtful, have travelled to Spain and took part in training this week and will play a part. Salvatore Bocchetti is likewise doubtful through injury, and will probably miss out. On the face of it, only Samedov and Zobnin will be missing who would usually start anyway, thus Spartak actually has a relatively clean bill of health compared to recent weeks.

Youngster Zelimkhan Bakaev could start in place of the injured Samedov, having impressed in both the league and cup in recent weeks, and will offer an unknown quantity to a Sevilla defence in continued crisis. Lorenzo Melgarejo will likely deputise and is currently in the best form of his Spartak career. Both Captain Daniel Carrico and Nico Pareja will be out injured for Sevilla, thus resulting in the same back four that Spartak tore apart last time the two sides met.

 

Key Players

Quincy Promes – Promes is irrevocably the most exciting player in the Russia with eleven goals and six assists in eighteen games in all competitions this season. Promes is the one game changer in Spartak’s side at this level and will be very dangerous to the makeshift Sevilla defence. With 4.1 shots, 3.1 key passes and 2.3 dribbles per game, it is proven that Promes is a consistent threat to any team of any quality, look to the enigmatic Dutchman to be Spartak’s threat on Tuesday night.

Denis Glushakov – As the heartbeat of Spartak’s team, their inspirational leader is finally returning to top form. Last time out against Sevilla, Glushakov scored a typical Glushakov goal, running late into the box before finishing across the keeper with aplomb; a well-picked, effective finish into the far corner. He is finally returning to his career-best levels of last season after a championship hangover, as Spartak themselves are finally moving towards top gear.

Fernando – He needs to be on top-form for Spartak to win tonight. Fernando will have his hands full with the return of N’Zonzi, but against Rostov and the weekend and recent games against Sevilla, Akhmat and Ural he has returned to his usual way of dictating the team’s play with ease while also acting as the water carrier in defence. This will be the key battle of the night.

 

Predicted Lineup

4-2-3-1: Aleksandr Selikhov – Andrey Yeschenko, Serdar Tasci, Georgi Dzhikiya, Dmitry Kombarov – Fernando, Denis Glushakov – Quincy Promes, Ivelin Popov, Lorenzo Melgarejo – Luiz Adriano.

 

Prediction

Sevilla are missing the aforementioned Carrico and Pareja, as well as winger Joaquin Correa, meaning Jesus Navas would likely deputise. Despite the return of N’Zonzi, if Spartak’s midfield is on top form as they have been in recent games, I’d expect them to pull off a decent result, most likely being a draw as playing without their away sector will be difficult. Expect Promes and Luiz Adriano to cause all sorts of problems for the Sevilla defence, but it will be a much closer game this time around, and if N’Zonzi can be kept quiet, Spartak will win.

Sevilla 1 – 2 Spartak Moscow

Author: James Nickels

Born and raised in South Shields, the direct mid-point between Sunderland and Newcastle in North-East England during an era of sustained success and European football for the Magpies, while the Black Cats floundered in the lower divisions, so naturally I decided to support Sunderland. I’ve developed an interest in Russian football over the last decade or so, but it piqued while studying for my Masters’ Degree in Russian and Soviet History, and I’ve been hooked by Spartak Moscow ever since. Considers Eduard Streltsov the best of his generation, and a fond proponent of his repatriation.

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