Champions League Preview: Spartak Moscow – Sevilla

Spartak’s replesedent new home, the 44,000 seater Otkrytiye Arena. Source: Открытие Арена

Spartak Moscow host Eduardo Berizzo’s Sevilla side at the Otkrytiye Arena on Tuesday night. It is a key fixture for the home side, who are without a victory so far in the group stages.

Spartak has won just two of their previous seventeen home games in the Champions League (D5, L10) and only kept one clean sheet in their last eighteen on home soil. However, have key players returning and are facing a makeshift Sevilla defence amidst an injury crisis. If Spartak takes their chances, may be able to pull off a surprise result.


Tactical Analysis

Spartak will lineup with a familiar five-at-the-back today, but different to the last round of European fixtures as Georgi Dzhikiya will likely return to his usual position in central defence, with the returning Dima Kombarov lining up out wide. Today’s game is so much more than a hit and run for Spartak, who will concede both possession and territory to Sevilla. However, with their own dangerous and vital attacking players back since missing the Liverpool game, I’d expect this to be much more of an even contest.

Spartak will defend deep in numbers, with the compact lines of three and five very difficult to break down in theory. Then, in attack will break through Luiz Adriano’s impressive ability as a target man. Last time out, the Red-Whites’  were forced very deep and the exclusion of both Quincy Promes and Denis Glushkov – key attacking players – left target man Luiz Adriano isolated up-front. Now, with the most exciting player in the RFPL and last season’s Player of the Year back, Spartak look a much more daunting outfit for a Sevilla side undergoing somewhat of an injury crisis. Sevilla first-choice central defenders, Captain Daniel Carriço and Nico Pareja are both out injured and their deputy, Simon Kjaer is a doubt – but has travelled to Moscow – and thus, the counter-attacks led by Glushakov, Promes and Luiz Adriano will cause a makeshift Sevilla defence harm.

Back at an expected sold-out Otkytiye Arena, the fans will be up for it and create a raucous atmosphere – and will hopefully play into the hands of Massimo Carrera.


Team News

Long-term ACL injury victims Roman Zobnin, Georgi Tigiev and Artyom Timofeev are all out for Spartak. They are joined by experience, first-choice goalkeeper Artyom Rebrov, who was injured midway through the Liverpool game after an excellent performance. His replacement, the young Aleksandr Selikhov, however, performed just as impressively leading to comparisons with Liverpool’s trio of struggling goalkeepers.

Attacking trio Jano Ananidze, Zé Luís and Lorenzo Melgarejo are all doubtful for the game, but all three are unlikely to start the match anyway and would merely be impact substitutes, especially Zé Luís, whose physicality would trouble a makeshift Sevilla defence.


Key Players

Quincy Promes – Promes is irrevocably the most exciting player in the Premier LEague this season, with nine goals and four assists in thirteen 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. Over the weekend, in a notoriously difficult game away to Akhmat Grozny in Chechnya, Glushakov scored a typical Glushakov goal, intercepting a wayward midfield pass before playing an excellent one-two with Promes before finishing 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.

Aleksandr Selikhov – The young goalkeeper had a European baptism of fire in the last game week against Liverpool, coming on for Artyom Rebrov late in the second half. He performed just as good as the man he replaced, however, pulling off four key saves in just 22 minutes of football. Selikhov is considered Rebrov’s long-term successor in the Spartak net as well as Igor Akinfeev’s replacement for Sbornaya, and he must step-up to the plate in games like against Sevilla if he is to live up to this hype. So far, he has impressed in the big games, with a man of the match performance at the Otkrytiye in 2015 for his previous club Amkar Perm one that springs to mind.


Predicted Lineup

(5-3-2): Selikhov – Eschenko, Tasci, Bocchetti, Dzhikiya, Kombarov – Glushakov, Fernando, Pašalić – Quincy Promes, Luiz Adriano


Match Prediction

Spartak has transitioned to defending champions with quite a difficulty this season, especially at the start. However, now unbeaten in their last nine in all competitions, with Glushakov and Quincy Promes back – who both missed the Liverpool tie – a similarly resolute defensive performance against a Sevilla team missing Carriço, Pareja and key midfielder Steven N’Zonzi may pick up an unlikely three points for Spartak. Wissam Ben Yedder, hat-trick hero in the last round of games against Maribor is now facing a much superior defence which has conceded just six goals in its last nine games. Sevilla faced arguably it’s most difficult summer in almost two decades, rocked by the double departure of enigmatic head coach Jorge Sampaoli, who led Sevilla to the second highest points total in their history, to the Argentinian National Team and Sporting Director Monchi, who had essentially been Mr Sevilla for the previous seventeen years and masterminded three consecutive Europa League/UEFA Cup victories.

Spartak always plays better against sides that attack them, rather than sitting back in an attempt to soak up the pressure, and Eduardo Berizzo has already claimed Sevilla will attack Spartak. This is a golden opportunity for Spartak considering the respective club’s injury news and one that must be taken by a resurgent side under Carrera.

Spartak Moscow 2 – 1 Sevilla FC

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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