Europa League Preview: FC Krasndar – Crzena Zvezda

Krasnodar Stadium. Photo: Dimka Pukalik

First Playoff Round, First Leg: Bulls Bullish or Red Star Gleaming?

Krasnodar enters this week’s Europa League match against Serbian side Crvena Zvezda in some spotty form. As of late, they have drawn against two potential relegation candidates in the RFPL. Between these disappointing draws came a last gasp victory over FC Akhmat, who is expected to challenge for European places this year. On top of their questionable form, injury concerns abound for Krasnodar, with some newcomers potentially seeing some game time. This unpredictability makes tonight’s game against Crvena Zvezda all the more exciting- who takes the field for Krasnodar and in what form is really anybody’s guess.

Tactical Analysis

Krasnodar will surely take the field in their traditional 4-3-3. Typically, the Bulls play some of the most entertaining, flowing football in the RFPL. Despite the uncertainty within the squad, expect Krasnodar to try to monopolize ball possession and control the tempo of the game, especially since they are at home. With the absence of Mauricio Pereyra, creative players like Wanderson and potentially Joãozinho or Andrei Ivan will be vital in unlocking a packed Crvena defense. Equally as important, holding midfielder Roman Shishkin will be vital in ensuring that Krasnodar isn’t caught out on the counter.

Team News

Krasnodar’s typical starting XI has been set back by two important injuries. Charles Kaboré, the club’s bastion in holding midfield, will miss this Thursday’s match. In his place will likely be Roman Shishkin. While Shishkin is a decent all around midfielder, he does not have Kaboré’s passing range or ability to control the tempo of a game.

Adding to their midfield problems, Krasnodar will also be without creative Uruguayan midfielder Mauricio Pereyra. His dribbling ability and eye for a key pass will be sorely missed. He could be replaced by any of several midfielders- none of whom offer the level of creativity that he can.

On the positive side for Krasnodar, coach Igor Shalimov has announced that Fyodor Smolov could potentially see game time as a substitute, after missing the whole beginning of the season due to injury. Smolov has been the top scorer in the RFPL each of the last two years, and Krasnodar have certainly felt his absence. It will be important to see if Shalimov pushes the limits of Smolov’s recovery or plays it safe and holds the star striker back for another week or two.

Injuries aside, there are several positional battles going on in Krasnodar’s squad. At goalkeeper, 18 year old Matvey Safonov was given the start last week over veteran keeper Andrei Sinitsyn after a poor game against FC Akhmat, and will hope to start again this week after a decent performance. Additionally, 18 year old striker Ivan Ignatyev will hope to start as striker over Viktor Claesson. Ignatyev started last week but was subbed off at halftime in favor of Claesson, so who starts is anyone’s guess. Finally, new signing Andrei Ivan could get a start at right wing in wake of Pavel Mamaev’s poor performances and recent racism scandal.

Key Players

Wanderson

With so much of Krasnodar’s starting lineup uncertain, it is difficult to pinpoint three players who will play a key role. One sure choice, however, ought to be Wanderson. The mercurial Brazilian left winger will likely have to pick up the creative slack in the absence of Pereyra. Wanderson’s dribbling and explosive pace will be vital to Krasnodar creating chances, whether on the counter of breaking down a tightly packed Crvena defense.

Cristian Ramírez

Another important player for Krasnodar will be Cristian Ramírez, the club’s pacey left back. Together with Wanderson, Ramírez should help the left side of Krasnodar’s team to be by far the most dangerous. His ability to overlap and contribute to the attack, while remaining defensively disciplined, will be vital.

Roman Shishkin

Shishkin’s challenge to be a stable presence at the base of Krasnodar’s midfield will be one of the most important aspects of this match. Shishkin will have the responsibility of initiating attacks from the base of midfield, while also remaining positionally disciplined so as to prevent his team from being caught out on the counter. Krasnodar’s chances in this game lie in his ability to effectively do both of these tasks.

Predicted Lineup

4-3-3: Safonov – Ramírez, Granqvist, Martynovich, Petrov- Shishkin, Podberezkin, Gazinsky- Wanderson, Ignatyv, Ivan

Prediction

Krasnodar’s spotty form, coupled with their injury issues, should make this a tough game. Even though the Bulls have more quality than Crvena, I suspect that they will struggle to control the tempo in this contest. However, the Bulls’ quality in attack should see them able to secure a draw.

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Author: Will Baumgardner

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

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