Europa League Preview: Crvena Zvezda – FC Krasnodar

Riot Police overlooking the Delije at the Eternal Derby, Marakana Stadium. Photo: Andrej Isakovic/AFP Stock.

First Playoff Round, Second Leg: Fyodor Smolov’s Return?

Last week’s Europa league clash between Krasnodar and Crvena Zvezda was a thriller. Featuring five goals, one improperly disallowed and scoring chances aplenty, there was no shortage of excitement at the Krasnodar Stadium. Krasnodar comes into this game with a deserved 3-2 lead after they controlled most of the game at their home arena. Though Krasnodar does have this lead heading to Serbia, Crvena’s two away goals mean that they are in a decent position in this tie. If Crvena wins by one goal, they will in all likelihood advance, barring another five-goal game. On the flip side, a win or draw will put Krasnodar through to the Europa league group stages, but this achievement is easier said than done for Igor Shalimov’s men.

Tactical Analysis

Krasnodar have to be careful in how they approach this game. To try to sit on their lead would be a mistake. It would be far too dangerous to sit back and play for a draw away from home when a one-goal loss will likely see them out of Europa League, a disaster for Sergei Galitskiy. Bearing this situation in mind, expect Krasnodar to try to control the tempo of this game, and have the majority of the ball. They were very effective in keeping the ball in the first leg of the fixture, however, they did allow Crvena to counter effectively, which led to both of their goals. The key to this game will lie in Krasnodar’s ability to limit those counters for Crvena and control the tempo of the game. Expect to see Krasnodar lineup in their usual 4-3-3 formation at the Marakana.

Team News

Just as in last week’s fixture, Krasnodar will potentially be without their key midfield duo of Charles Kaboré and Mauricio Pereyra. Not much is currently known about the extent of their injuries, however, neither featured in Krasnodar’s weekend match against Rostov. It is possible that Shalimov wanted to give them further time to recover before this Thursday’s key match, however it is more likely that neither will feature in this match.

Adding to Krasnodar’s injury problems is the potential absence of Mihailo Ristić this Thursday. Ristić was one of the players Shalimov favoured in replacing the injured Pereyra and put in a truly outstanding performance in the first leg of this tie. However, Ristić left last weekend’s game against Rostov in the 44th minute after receiving a vicious tackle to the ankle, and his availability for the second leg of this fixture is uncertain.

Who Shalimov chooses to replace all of these injured midfielders is a bit of a guessing game. Yuri Gazinsky would seem to be the one sure bet to get a start, but who starts alongside him is unpredictable. Ilya Zhigulev would offer some dynamism in attack, Roman Shishkin would offer a defensive skill set in midfield while moving Pavel Mamaev into midfield would lend some experience to an uncertain centre. Who Shalimov chooses to start, and what degree of creativity vs iron in midfield those chosen players possess, will go a long way towards determining the outcome of this game.

The most positive news for Krasnodar is Igor Shalimov’s confirmation that Fyodor Smolov will be in the starting lineup for this match. In the past several matches, including the first leg of this tie, Krasnodar had been starting Ivan Ignatyev at striker and then bringing Smolov off of the bench in order to ease him back into match fitness. However, now that Smolov is fully fit Krasnodar’s attack will see a major upgrade.

Key Players

Andrei Sinitsyn

Goalkeeper Andrei Sinitsyn will surely be called into action in this away fixture if last Thursday’s game is anything to go by. Sinitsyn has made some spectacular saves over the season but has also had some problems with consistency. If Krasnodar is to escape from Belgrade with a ticket to the Europa League group stage, Sinitsyn will have to be at his very best.

Fyodor Smolov

Any time Fyodor Smolov starts for Krasnodar, he has to be considered a key player. When Smolov is on the pitch, the attack works through him. His skill in hold up play will be invaluable for Krasnodar as they work to keep possession of the ball, and his goal poaching instincts could very well see him fire Krasnodar through to the Europa league.

Andreas Granqvist

Krasnodar’s captain Andreas Granqvist will have the key job of marshalling the Bulls’ backline. His ability to keep their defence moving as a unit and not keeping runners onsides will be key in preventing rapid counter attacks from Crvena Zvezda. Last week’s match saw Crvena have plenty of success on the counter, and it will be up to Granqvist to help fix that this week.

Predicted Lineup

4-3-3: Sinitsyn – Ramírez, Granqvist, Martynovich, Petrov – Mamaev, Gazinsky, Zhigulev – Wanderson, Smolov, Ivan


Crvena’s two away goals makes this one a dangerous game for Krasnodar. Even though it is an away game, expect Krasnodar to be able to control this game due to their advantage in overall quality, and the way they play. Players like Smolov and Wanderson set Krasnodar a class above Crvena Zvezda. Smolov’s inclusion from the beginning of the game should see the Bulls have additional firepower, which should help them to carry the day.


Author: Will Baumgardner

College student in the United States and avid Krasnodar fan. Sergey Galitskiy is the man.

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