Europa League Preview: FC Sheriff Tiraspol – Lokomotiv Moscow

Locomotive standing outside Lokomotiv Stadium in Moscow. Photo: Toke Theilade/RFN

Coming from the disappointing defeat against Ufa, Lokomotiv faces Sheriff this Thursday with a mixture of feelings. Despite leading Group F, the next two games against the Moldovan side are expected to be crucial to ensure qualification for the next round. The “Railwaymen” are in a decent form, having recorded three convincing wins in the last four games. Aside from Ufa, the atmosphere around Loko is great and very few people would have expected such a strong beginning of the season. However, to keep such a good path will be even stronger.

Lokomotiv has always been known as one of the most unstable Russian clubs, that’s why it’s hard to predict how the Semin’s men will perform in the next few months. Travelling to Tiraspol is not an easy away game as many would think. FC Copenhagen failed to defeat Sheriff, underlining how difficult the trip is. Lokomotiv has also been known as the Robin Hood of the RFPL, stealing points from top clubs and gifting them to smaller sides. Wins against CSKA and Spartak, and defeats against Amkar and Tosno should be seen that way. If Lokomotiv is the Robin Hood of the Europa League as well, this is yet to be seen.

Sheriff is currently leading in the league and has not lost a game since August. The game is expected to be balanced and interesting.

 

Tactical Analysis

Despite the so-called “bad” relationship between Gerkus and Semin, results have been good so far. That’s also thanks to the switch from a 3-5-2 to the classic 4-2-3-1, which is a more offensive approach to the game. After several attempts and experiments, Semin has finally found the ideal line-up to take advantage of Lokomotiv’s best players qualities. Manuel Fernandes, the Miranchuk brothers, Jefferson Farfán and Eder are all very technical players, and it would be a pity to constantly renounce to one of them.

The Railwaymen have developed strong combination football, which has in Fernandes the star of the team. All balls pass through his feet. Unfortunately, also the team’s mood is strongly affected by the Portuguese. If he plays, Loko plays. If he doesn’t, they don’t. He is simply that important.

Semin wants his players to play as fast football as possible, moving rapidly into the opponent’s half of the pitch to create goalscoring opportunities. This works very well with open teams, but not against sides against Ufa or Amkar which put five defenders in front of the goalkeeper and defend for the whole match. If Sheriff wants to score, they have to take advantage of corners and free kicks as well as counterattacks. Lokomotiv has a strong defensive line, but they often find themselves in trouble when under pressure.

 

Team News

Vedran Ćorluka and Ari are close to recovering from their injuries but are still unavailable. All the other players should be ready to play. Vladislav Ignatyev and Farfan, who didn’t take part in the last match should be fit, while Tarasov suffered a small injury in Ufa, but shouldn’t be doubtful.

 

Key Players

Manuel Fernandes – The Portuguese midfielder has been in fantastic form this year, and he is arguably one of the best players in the Russian league. Fernandes is the guy who can create something out of nothing, and Lokomotiv always look to him when they are in need of a goal.

Solomon Kvirkvelia – The Georgian defender is the defensive cornerstone of Lokomotiv. He is incredibly difficult to get by, and despite his size, he is also relatively quick. All in all, Kvirkvelia is a complete defender, and when watching him play, one is amazed that Rubin Kazan allowed him to leave.

Aleksei Miranchuk – Aleksei Miranchuk is the best and most established of the two twins. He is seen as the future of Russian football, and there is no doubt that the day when he has outgrown Cherkizovo and his Lokomotiv exit is coming closer and closer.

 

Predicted Lineup

(4-2-3-1): Guilherme – Vladislav Ignatyev, Solomon Kvirkvelia, Nemanja Pejčinović, Mikhail Lysov – Igor Denisov, Dmitry Tarasov – Manuel Fernandes, Aleksei Miranchuk, Jefferson Farfán – Eder.

 

Prediction

I think Lokomotiv will face many difficulties to overcome a team like Sheriff. The Railwaymen terribly suffer sides which mainly stay on their half of the pitch and rely on counterattacks. Defeats against Amkar, Tosno and Ufa can just confirm that. Otherwise, the three points in Moldova are too important for Semin’s XI, both regarding the group table and the emotional state of Loko. A loss would be tragic as it’d affect the ambitions for the primacy in the group and also the mood ahead of the crucial game against Krasnodar in the RFPL. In the end, I’d go for a draw. 1-1 would be typical Lokomotiv result in such a contest.

FC Sheriff Tiraspol 1 – 1 Lokomotiv Moscow

Author: Stefano Conforti

Half Russian, half Italian. Football writer and Lokomotiv Moscow supporter. Founder of the FCLMblog, the only blog about Lokomotiv outside Russia, and FCLMmagazine, which is the first magazine in English for an Eastern Europe football club. I’m interested in everything related to Russia and the post-Soviet world.

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