Europa League Preview: OGC Nice – Lokomotiv Moscow

Lokomotiv Moscow train

Locomotive standing outside the RZD-Arena in Moscow | Toke Theilade/RFN

OGC Nice v Lokomotiv Moscow – Thursday, 15 February, 18:00 GMT – Allianz Riviera, Nice.

After a long winter break, Lokomotiv Moscow return to action on Thursday evening, where they face French side OGC Nice away in the Europa League.

For Lokomotiv Moscow, a trip to southern France must be a nice break from the cold Muscovite winter, but for the Railroaders there won’t be time for sightseeing or relaxing. The red-greens travel to France with one purpose; to secure a good starting point prior to the return leg at the RZD-Arena next week.

Lokomotiv was the big surprise in the Russian Football Premier League in late 2017, but because of the winter break, it is tough to say exactly where they stand at the moment. The players lack competitive match training, but on the other hand, they have spent two months preparing solely for Nice, which means they’ll know every inch of their opponent.

READ MORE: Exploring Lokomotiv’s Auspicious Start to the Season

Tactical Analysis

Lokomotiv Moscow travel to France with after some mixed friendly results. The Railroaders spent the winter in Spain on two separate training camps. During the preparations for the Nice game, Lokomotiv played seven friendly games without ever really impressing. Despite the opponents all coming from a significantly lower level than the Premier League leaders, Lokomotiv only managed a single victory, 1-0 against Osijek from Croatia. In the latest friendly, Lokomotiv lost 2-1 to Ferencváros.

Although results in friendlies doesn’t mean much, surely the poor results have somewhat affected the mood in the squad. Especially the way Lokomotiv defended during the friendlies should cause some worry; conceding a ton of goals, and they were far from the team we saw in the fall.

This was also something head coach Yuri Semin noticed. After a respectable 3-3 friendly against Swedish side Östersunds FK, he said;

It’s good that we scored three goals, but on the other hand, we conceded the same amount of goals. Probably, our defence lack responsibility. If the attack is very good, then the defense has a lot of work to do. And not only four defenders, but the whole team.

During the fall, Yuri Semin tried multiple formations with big succes. Lokomotiv have several options for how to approach the game, which makes them unpredictable. Semin can go with a classic 4-2-3-1, but he has also used a 3-5-2 formation on numerous occasions.

Against the stronger opponents, Semin tends to go 4-2-3-1, although it is a highly dynamic one. In this formation, the offensive players will often switch position and constantly seek the open space on the pitch. This set high demands for the opposing defenders, who’ll have to stay alert at all time to be aware of where the Lokomotiv stars are.

Team News

After ten months on the sideline, captain Vedran Ćorluka returned to training this winter. The experienced central defender was probably Lokomotiv’s most important player before his injury, and his return to the training pitch is important both on the pitch and in the locker room. Ćorluka will still need time to get back into his best shape, but he played a good game against Ferencváros. After the game, Semin stated that he counted on the Croatian defender, although he wouldn’t share whether or not he would start against Nice.

Another player who recently returned to the training field is 32-year-old Ari. The striker, who was fantastic for Lokomotiv in the spring, hasn’t played a competitive match since July because of a nasty knee injury, but is now ready once again. After the 3-3 draw against Östersund, Ari told Lokomotiv’s official website, that he didn’t feel any pain while playing.

Yuri Semin is thus sending his strongest possible team to Nice, although Lokomotiv loaned back-up defender Timofey Margasov to FC Tosno in January.

Key Players

Aleksey Miranchuk – 22-year-old Aleksey Miranchuk, the most famous of the two Miranchuk twins, got his bit break through for Lokomotiv in the fall. He is a decisive player, who can create chances for himself and his teammates literally out of nowhere. Miranchuk is no longer just an exciting talent, he is the kind of player who wins games for his team. He proved this on numerous occasions in the fall, and he is currently Lokomotiv’s vice top-scorer with seven league goals.

Jefferson Fárfan – The Peruvian national team star was Lokomotiv’s best player in the fall. So far this season, he has 12 goals in 22 games, eight of which in the league. When looking at Fárfan, it is impossible to see that he is now 33. The way the Peruvian moves around the pitch he still looks like a 22-year-old. Add to this that Farfan now has several years of experience from European football on the highest level, and you have the recipe of a class player. Fárfan is one of the leaders on and off the pitch, and he proved this by scoring ten goals in the last eight games of 2017.

Solomon Kverkvelia – The Georgian central defender is one of the best in his position in Russia. He combines speed and physical strength with an incredible footballing intelligence. When watching Kverkvelia, it is tough to believe that he only turned 26 in the beginning of February. He plays the beautiful game like an experienced veteran, and it was because of him that Lokomotiv managed to stay strong and win the Russian Cup last season and take the first place in the Premier League this season despite Ćorluka’s absence.

Predicted Lineup

Guilherme – Ivan Ignatiev, Solomon Kverkvelia, Nemanja Pejčinović, Vitali Denisov – Igor Denisov, Dmitri Tarasov – Aleksey Miranchuk, Manuel Fernandes, Anton Miranchuk – Jefferson Fárfan

Prediction

Lokomotiv are the underdog in France, but Semin’s troops are definitely not without chances. Lokomotiv have been fantastic this season, and although their continental form has been slightly worse than the domestic, they have proved that they can beat the best teams.

For Lokomotiv, the opening fixture is all about getting a decent result home to Moscow, which they should be capable off. Nice have a couple of class players, but as a whole, the French team isn’t on the level it used to be. Lokomotiv should be able to get a good result and advance to the next round.

Lokomotiv even have Ari and Ćorluka back in the squad, and with these news in mind, it is worth going to Betting.com‘s football Betting page for a punt on a good result for the Railroaders.

OGC Nice 1-1 Lokomotiv Moscow

Toke Møller Theilade

Author: Toke Møller Theilade

Brøndby supporter, groundhopper and more importantly Editor-in-Chief at Russianfootballnews.com. As a hopeless romantic, I still believe Fyodor Smolov and Viktoria Lopyreva has a future together.

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