RFPL Week 20: Betting Advice & Previews

Game of the Week – Sunday 13:30 BST: Spartak Moscow – CSKA Moscow

By James Nickels (@JamesNickels)

Although not the oldest derby in Moscow, Spartak-CSKA is by far the fiercest and biggest with the most successful clubs of the Soviet and Post-Soviet era vying for dominance, and this could be the biggest Main Moscow Derby for years. Although last season’s Spartak victory started the run that confirmed their first championship victory for 16 years, such a massive game after each teams’ own respective draining losses midweek in England is vital to recoup some morale and concrete their position in the race for Champions League qualification again next season.

I am Spartak(cus)

Well, that collapse midweek was almost all so Spartak, but conceding seven goals certainly isn’t. Last time they conceded seven was 76 (!) years ago, and last time they lost 7-0 was incredibly 93 years ago in 1924 (!!), just two years after the club was founded by the Starostin brothers. Spartak were simply brutally undone and outclassed on Wednesday night against a rampant Liverpool front five as they conceded seven goals for the first time in their history in official games. On Sunday afternoon, they will need all of their players to be Spartacus and stand up and prove their worth.

Despite such a crushing loss, they shouldn’t dwell on it. They arguably performed to the same (poor) level as in the 1-1 draw with Liverpool at the Otkrytie in the second Champions League group game. This is exactly what happens when one of the most efficient counter-attacking sides in Europe meets a side which simply can’t defend counter-attacks. If they were to get anything out of the game, they had to hold out for the first 20 minutes and frustrate Liverpool – at this point at home they were level and managed to grab a shock lead. On Wednesday, the Red-Whites were 3-0 down after just 18 minutes. On that night, Liverpool stumbled and were profligate as a result. It was all about mentality. Last season, Massimo Carrera’s men put on their best runs of form after respective heavy losses to Zenit at home and Krylia Sovetov away, and his side must conjure up some of last season’s steely resolve to do so.

Carrera will make a few changes but can’t afford to make many. He will be buoyed by the fighting spirit shown by his players and fans on Wednesday, and CSKA are a wholly different beast to Liverpool’s breakneck, young side and should offer a completely different test. Not to mention, the Spartak players will be baying for blood after the last Main Moscow derby resulted in a loss after leading, and Spartak are at their best when they have a gear to grind.

Army Men proud, but downed in battle

CSKA Moscow, on the other hand, bowed out of the Champions League with their heads held-high, this has been their most successful European campaign in six years. They literally came thirty minutes away from qualification, leading against Manchester United at Old Trafford for an hour, with a depleted squad too.

Viktor Goncharenko simply needs to reaffirm this and order against complacency that make emanate from his players’ who certainly watched Spartak’s collapse midweek. Mário Fernandes is a vital cog in the CSKA machine and will take advantage of Spartak’s injury problems, who are missing all-three genuine options at left-back with Dima Kombarov, Georgi Tigiev and Georgi Dzhikiya all out injured. The right-hand axis of Fernandes, Dzagoev and Vitinho often determines the result in CSKA matches.

CSKA are in red-hot form winning three on the bounce in the league after a 6-0 victory last time out. They have won two of the three main Moscow derbies held at the Otkrytie too, so history and form are both on their side right now. It promises to be a very entertaining and interesting affair.

Team News

Spartak have somewhat of a defensive crisis, as aforementioned, with all three genuine options at left back; Kombarov, Tigiev and Dzhikiya all injured. The former two have long-term injuries and Dzhikiya went off with a thigh injury against Liverpool. Jano Ananidze and Artem Timofeev are likewise missing for the Red-Whites with long-term injuries.

Georgi Shchennikov, Vasili Berezutsky and Georgi Milanov are recovering from injury and will miss this weekend’s Moscow derby, but the CSKA side which was depleted midweek will be spurred on by the returns of Pontus Wernbloom and Bibras Natkho, who are both in wonderful form of late. The former has particularly impressed in a striking role of late, registering four goals and one assist in four games up top.

Predicted Line-ups

Spartak (4-2-3-1): Selikhov – Eschenko, Tasci, Kutepov, Zobnin – Glushakov, Fernando – Samedov, Luiz Adriano, Promes – Zé Luis.

CSKA (3-5-2): Akinfeev – V. Berezutsky, Vasin, Ignashevich – Mário Fernandes, Dzagoev, Natkho, Golovin, Nababkin – Vitinho, Wernbloom.

Betting Advice: Anything can happen in a derby, and that will be the case here. However, whenever the pair play, there are goals, especially when Spartak are at home; they have seen over 2.5 goals in ten of their last eleven home matches against CSKA Moscow in all competitions and have scored at least two goals in eight of their last ten home matches.
€10 on over 2.5 goals @2.10 at bet365


Friday, 14:30 GMT: Ural Ekaterinburg – Arsenal Tula

By Andrew Flint (@AndrewMijFlint)

The winter break is probably coming at a good time for Ural, as their early form has taken a bit of a blow with recent results. Three consecutive defeats have seen them drop down to mid-table safety while losing the only remaining unbeaten home record was a dent in their pride. It has still not been confirmed (at the time of writing) whether the match will be played indoors at the club’s 3,500-capacity arena or outside at the SKB Bank Arena, but either way Ural will be without the suspended Vladimir Ilyin, Gregor Balazic and star man Eric Bicfalvi, on top of long-term absentees Aleksandr Pavlenko and Vladimir Khozin.

However, their last two losses (2-1 away to Zenit and 1-0 at home to Krasnodar) were both spirited performances which suggest the problem is not deeply-ingrained. Arsenal have themselves failed to win in their last three, and have let in the joint-highest number of goals away from home of teams outside the relegation playoff zone.

The winner of this game will guarantee themselves top-half status going into the spring season. Not many teams are allowed to produce their full-flowing best for 90 minutes in Ekaterinburg, and at a decent price, they look good for the win.

Betting Advice: €10 on Ural to win @2.43 at bet365


Saturday, 11:00 GMT: Dinamo Moscow – Anzhi Makhachkala

By James Nickels (@JamesNickels)

Four years ago, this game was a battle for Europe, now it is simply a fight for survival. Dinamo Moscow have struggled this season since an awful ACL injury sidelined top scorer and star player Kirill Panchenko in late September. Since then, the Musora have scored just six goals in the league, winning only two games out of nine. Anzhi are struggling from years of instability in both finances and personnel, with 96 transfer incomings and outgoings over the last two seasons.

Both, however, picked up vital victories in the relegation battle in Week 19, as Dinamo defeated now-managerless Rostov 2-0 and Anzhi demolished lowly SKA 4-0 at home. This game is a real six-pointer, as victory could pull either side completely out of the relegation and playoff positions.

Dinamo are without the aforementioned Panchenko and now young winger Anton Terekhov, who himself suffered a major knee injury in the game against Amkar in Week 18 – he will be out for at least six months. Aside from missing these two key players, Dmitri Khokhlov can call upon a fully-fit squad. Vadim Skripchenko faces a selection headache, missing five players. Magomed Musalov and Batraz Khadartsev are still recovering from their own long-term injuries. Jaba Lipartia, Konstantin Bazelyuk and Aleksei Solosin are all also missing, forcing Skripchenko to promote youngsters Ivan Ivanchenko and Magomed Elmurzaev to the main squad.

Although it will be a close game, there have been under 2.5 goals scored in all of Dinamo’s last seven home games and Anzhi haven’t won away in eleven of their last twelve.

Betting Advice: €10 on under 2.5 goals @1.53 at bet365


Saturday, 13:30 GMT: Rubin Kazan – SKA Khabarovsk

By Ben Clark (@dinoben_)

I’m going to be honest – you’re probably going to lose your money on this one. SKA are in dreadful, dreadful form. Five matches ago and they were in touching distance of 12th. Now, with one game left before the winter break, they’ll be lucky if they end the season in the relegation play-offs.

However – and this is why you should put your money on SKA to win – Rubin are in equally awful form. With this week’s announcement that the players haven’t been paid in four months, it’s no wonder that they haven’t won in their last seven. They’ve fired five blanks in those seven games and the team doesn’t look like it’s going to start making it’s way up the league anytime soon. Winning this game would be a huge boost to SKA’s chances of survival. I think they know that this is a very winnable game.

Also, you’ll be able to treat your mates to a round [or two, or three – Ed.] if this comes in.

Betting Advice: €10 on SKA win @13.00 at bet365


Sunday 11:00 GMT: Amkar Perm – FC Krasnodar

By Andrew Flint (@AndrewMijFlint)

Amkar as a team have managed just one more goal than Krasnodar’s Fyodor Smolov, and that includes the Russian international missing four matches through injury. It comes as no surprise then that Gadzhi Gadzhiev’s side are the lowest scorers in the RFPL, and have won just twice at home in nine months. Even their usually dour defence has begun to show some minor cracks recently – they have let in more goals in their last three home matches than in the previous six, and they have kept just two clean sheets in their last seven at home.

Krasnodar are beginning to look back to their best after four wins from five matches, with RFN’s 2016 Player of the Year Smolov notching six goals personally in that run. They now lie just three points behind Zenit in second and know that a win will take them up to fourth. Without the added burden of European fixtures to contend with – unlike all four of their rivals above them in the table – Igor Shalimov has managed to begin a revival that may stay his own execution. Andreas Granqvist is missing through suspension, but otherwise, they have no new unavailable first-team players.

After this round, the Bulls – who have won the joint-highest number of away games – will only have four away fixtures to play, and can put themselves in prime position for an assault on the Champions League places. Expect them to do so.

Betting Advice: €10 on Krasnodar to win @2.13 at bet365


Sunday 16:00 GMT: FC Rostov – FC Ufa

By Ben Clark (@dinoben_)

Despite having won their first league game since August, Rostov haven’t looked good since last season when they were surprising Europe with their resilient performances. This week, Leonid Kuchuk paid the price for Rostov’s dismal performances and was handed his P45.

Ufa have been remarkably solid this season and sit in mid-table. However, they only have seven points between themselves and will be keen to maximise that gap. They’ve lost two in their last nine, winning four of those – the two they lost? They came away from home.

With a change of management, I think Rostov will be a better team this weekend and show more fight and desire than they have done all season. Despite Ufa’s performances this season, I have an inkling they’ll struggle against Rostov and both sides will level the other out.

Betting Advice: €10 on Ufa to win @3.00 at bet365


Monday 16:30 GMT: Akhmat Grozny – Zenit St. Petersburg

By James Nickels (@JamesNickels)

Zenit pulled off a key 3-1 victory over Real Sociedad in midweek thanks to two stunning late goals from Branislav Ivanović and Leandro Paredes respectively, who decided to hold their own goal of the month competition. Akhmat, meanwhile, were cruising to an impressive 2-0 victory before shooting themselves in the foot and conceding three in the second-half to go on to lose the game. As  a whole, Akhmat have made more individual errors leading to goals than anyone else in the league this season.

Akhmat will be without key midfielder and arguably player of the season so far Anton Shvets, who picked up his fourth yellow card in the loss to Krasnodar. However, Bernard Berisha has returned to fitness.

Zenit, on the other hand, are facing a small crisis in selection (or would if they didn’t have such a huge squad). Aleksandr Anyukov is out (as usual), and he is joined by fellow right-backs Igor Smolnikov (who picked up a knock against Sociedad) and Denis Terentiev, who has a broken nose after being brutally attacked near his house last week. Aleksandr Erokhin is suspended after also picking up his fourth yellow card against Ural and both Andrei Lunev and Oleg Shatov are doubtful through injury.

Despite a resounding 4-0 for Zenit the last time these two met in August, Akhmat had won three on the bounce before that game. They are Zenit’s bogey side. In their last two games at the Akhmat Arena, they have defeated Zenit 4-1 and 2-1 respectively, and a player of either side has been sent off in each of the last four times these sides met. There has also been over 2.5 goals in each sides’ last three respective games, so expect more here.

Betting Advice: €10 on Akhmat to win and BTTS @9.00 at bet365


Monday 16:30 GMT: FC Tosno – Lokomotiv Moscow

By James Nickels (@JamesNickels)

Tosno are on a rotten run of form, after looking like they were finally pulling away from the relegation race, a 5-0 loss to Zenit and 6-0 loss to CSKA has seen their defence and form implode, and they sit just a point ahead of both Dinamo and Anzhi after their respective victories last weekend. Lokomotiv, on the other hand, are in a rich vein of form and becoming robotic with their one goal margin victories in their push for the title. Their recent form reminds me of Spartak from last season and CSKA the season before. Auspicious signs.

Tosno are without key man Anton Zabolotnyi. Although poor last weekend, and that Evgeni Markov is their top scorer, Zabolotnyi has actually assisted more goals for Markov than anyone else in their excellent partnership up top. However, he picked up his fourth yellow card of the season against CSKA. Ante Vukisic is a long-term injury victim due to lung problems, and will be out until after the Winter Break is over.

Lomomotiv are without numerous key members in defence. Captain Vedran Ćorluka remains sidelined from a long-term injury. Guilherme is also out, along with Maciej Rybus. They are joined on the sidelines by Taras Mykhalyk, who picked up a muscle injury and was withdrawn in the game against Rubin. Ari will also miss out.

Loko have won five of their last six, winning the most recent three by a one-goal margin. Tosno, however, have conceded at least twice in their last four and there has beeen over 2.5 goals scored in all of these. Surely 1-2 is nailed on here.

Betting Advice: €10 on Loko to win 2-1 @9.00 at bet365


RFN Total: +€753.44 

James Nickels: +€276.8 (hit rate: 21/35, 60%)

David Sansun: +€142.95 (hit rate: 21/58, 36%)

Thomas Giles: +€87.6 (hit rate 22/43, 52%)

Vincent Tanguy: +€79.65 (hit rate: 13/39, 33%)

Jack Beresford: +€75.7 (hit rate 4/9, 44%) 

Will Baumgardner +€62.8 (hit rate: 4/4, 100%)

Andrew Flint: +€52.9 (hit rate: 20/66, 30%)

Ben Clark: +€42 (hit rate: 13/42, 31%)

Lukas Müller: +€31.45 (hit rate: 6/18, 33%)

Toke Theilade: +€27.89 (hit rate: 14/39, 36%)

Stefano Conforti: +€0.5  (hit rate: 3/9, 33%)

Danny Armstrong: -€8 (hit rate: 2/6, 33%)

Artëm Markarevitch: -€23.1 (hit rate: 7/24, 29%)

Ilya Sokolov: -€-26.4 (hit rate: 15/49, 30%)

Martin Lowe: -€34.2 (hit rate: 7/22, 32%)

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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