RFPL Week 6: Betting Advice & Previews

Vagner Love mural at VEB Arena. Photo: Toke Theilade

Match of the Round, Saturday 15:30 BST: CSKA Moscow – Spartak Moscow

By Will Baumgardner (@WillBaumRFN)

Both Spartak and CSKA Moscow enter this heavyweight matchup with something to prove. Spartak, last season’s champions, enter the contest in a middling eighth place in the league. On the other hand, CSKA, who finished second last year, come into the matchup in a disappointing fifth place. Both teams will be looking to turn their seasons around in what is sure to be an exciting matchup at VEB Arena.

Title Hangover at Spartak

Spartak’s middling start to this season was made worse by the 5-1 thrashing that they received at the hands of Zenit St. Petersburg. It was a game in which Massimo Carrera’s squad were thoroughly outplayed, and simply could not tighten up their defence. More than just the lost 3 points, the squad were surely disheartened at losing so badly to their expected title rivals.

Spartak was given a good opportunity to regroup after their humiliating defeat at Zenit in the form of a relatively easy game against Arsenal Tula last week. Carrera took this opportunity to rest several of his starters, including the midfield pairing of Glushakov and Fernando. Despite the weakened squad, Spartak handled their opponents from Tula well and won a solid 2-0 victory. Goals from Quincy Promes and Ze Luis ensured that the result of the game was never in doubt. Selikhov is a player to watch for Spartak, as the goalie was given the nod to start over the more experienced Rebrov after Rebrov had a very poor game against Zenit. Whether Carrera opts for experience or form in goal will be an important decision, as a loss here could potentially put Spartak eight points off of first place.

CSKA Look to Get Back in the Title Race

CSKA have started their season a little more positively than Spartak, but not by much. Their three wins against relegation candidates are games that you expect a club like CSKA to win. Meanwhile, the only two good clubs CSKA have played, Lokomotiv and Rubin, resulted in losses. The way CSKA have struggled against quality opposition should worry fans of the club in the lead up to the Spartak game. On the positive side, CSKA has handled their Champions league qualifying games against AEK Athens well and the Army men look set for a return to Europe’s most prestigious competition.

Much like Spartak last week, CSKA rested several starters against newly promoted FC Tosno. Dzagoev, Wernbloom, and Vitinho all sat out and so should all be well rested for the upcoming match against Spartak. Despite resting several starters CSKA managed to defeat Tosno 2-1, in what was a well-contested match. Ilya Pomazun, who deputized for Igor Akinfeev after his injury, will be a player to watch in goal for CSKA. He appeared rather gunshy against Rubin and was at least partially at fault for both goals conceded. He did look more solid in his second start against Tosno, but he will surely be tested against Spartak.

Team News

CSKA’s only injury is a rather serious one. Club legend and starting goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev picked up a knee injury in the club’s Europa League qualifier against AEK Athens, and it is unknown whether or not he will be able to play this weekend.

Spartak’s Timofeev tore his ACL in last week’s game against Arsenal Tula, so Spartak will be without a substitute option in midfield. Additionally, Spartak is still feeling the Absence of Roman Zobnin who has been out since the beginning of the year, also with an ACL tear. Notably, Luiz Adriano is not an option for Massimo Carrera this week at striker, as the forward is still serving his suspension for a red card obtained in the Zenit game. This means that Carrera will almost certainly opt for a one striker formation, as Ze Luis is his only fit option up top.

Precited Lineups

Spartak (4-2-3-1): Selikhov; Kombarov, Tasci, Dzhikiya, Eschenko; Glushakov, Fernando; Promes, Ananidze, Samedov; Ze Luis

CSKA (3-5-2): Pomazun; V. Berezutskiy, Ignashevich, Vasin; Shchennikov, Wernbloom, Dzagoev, Golovin, Fernandes; Vitinho, Chalov

Betting Advice: €10 on over 2.5 goals @1.80 at Bet365

Saturday, 13:00 BST: FC Ufa – FC Rostov

By Thomas Giles (@thomas_giles_uk)

This duo has been known as two of the more solid sides in the Russian Premier League over the last couple of years and they are certainly keeping up that reputation at the moment and sit seventh and fourth respectively.

Along with Zenit, Lokomotiv and Ural, Ufa is one of only four teams yet to suffer defeat in the top flight so far this campaign. As you would expect from them, this good form has stemmed from their solid backline, which has kept three clean sheets in their opening five matches. However, they also showed in their 3-2 win against Akhmat Grozny that they are capable of finding the back of the net on several occasions when required.

Sergey Semak’s men have carried on their fantastic home record from the back-end of last season, which saw them win three on the bounce, with a draw and a win against Spartak and Ahkmat respectively – two of the better sides in the division.

After a summer of financial chaos and a mass exodus of players along with the departure influential coach Kurban Berdyev, many feared for Rostov this term. However, they are currently proving the doubters wrong and have won three of their first five games, putting them third in the table. Nobody is expecting the title challenge from two years ago but they have certainly made an excellent start.

Selmashi have built up a reputation for being a defensively solid team who need just one chance to win a match. This has certainly been the case in their last three games – winning by a 1-0 scoreline in each of them.

Leonid Kuchuk’s side has won two out of three on the road so far this campaign and has conceded just one goal away from Olimp-2. Away clean sheets have been a common theme for Rostov in recent months with eight kept in their last 14 away trips.

Matches between these two have been incredibly tight affairs over the last few seasons with a two-goal winning margin happening just once (back in 2015) and I expect a similarly tight game this time around.  Although it must be mentioned that Ufa has never beaten Rostov, I think they have a good chance this time around. Despite the fact that Rostov has been good on their travels, I think their rather limited striking options will make it hard to break down this Ufa backline.

Betting Advice: €10 on Ufa to keep a clean sheet @2.50 at Bet365

Saturday, 18:00 BST: Anzhi Makhachkala – Dinamo Moscow

By David Sansun (@RFN_David)

Anzhi sits second bottom currently, with just one victory so far. Their performances have been up and down Against Lokomotiv they looked decent on the counter attack but couldn’t finish their chances, while against SKA, they were able to control the game but their superior possession could not be converted into scoring opportunities. Back at home, they’ll be hopeful of hitting the back of the net again, and hopefully picking up some points.

Dinamo lost away to Rostov in midweek, but only via a penalty conceded by Samba Sow. Their previous match was a resounding 3-0 win against Amkar, their only win so far this season. Kirill Panchenko has only found the net once this season so far, having fired them to promotion last year, but against a faltering Anzhi he has a good chance to get another goal on the board.

Betting advice: €10 on Dinamo to win @2.50 at Bet365 

Sunday, 09:00 BST: SKA Khabarovsk – Rubin Kazan

By David Sansun (@RFN_David)

SKA picked up their first ever RFPL win in the week as they beat Anzhi 2-0. They’ll want to make the Lenin Stadium a fortress, and following three away games, they would have been glad to get back to home turf and use their locational advantage to their benefit. Both their home games, on the opening day against Zenit, and this week against Anzhi have seen their best performances so far, while they’ve struggled greatly away. The signing of Miroslav Markovic fills the gap left by Juan Lescano when he joined Anzhi, and he has made an instant impact, scoring their first ever top flight goal, and proving a handful up top.

Rubin go into this on the back of a decent, on paper, draw against Lokomotiv, but will feel hard done by after Jonathas received a harsh second yellow card, and then conceded a late equaliser to spoil what could have been a third win in a row. They have however now got a three match unbeaten streak going, and the players look like they have finally gathered some cohesion in their defence after a shaky, but very difficult run of games to start the season.

Betting Advice: €10 on a draw @3.20 at Bet365 

Sunday, 15:30 BST: Lokomotiv Moscow – FC Tosno

By Andrew Flint (@AndrewMijFlint)

If you had said a couple of months ago that Lokomotiv would be level on points with Zenit at the top of the table after five games, not many people would have taken you seriously. However, after conceding just two goals all season with a defence missing its captain Vedran Corluka and Vitaliy Denisov, not to mention back Roman Shishkin and Renat Yanbaev, they are proving many doubters wrong. The absence of Ari through injury till next year is a blow, but for now, they have managed fine.

Tosno is struggling to translate their good form into results – theirs is a classic case of needing to look beyond the numbers, as despite losing four of their five matches upon their return to the top flight, they are creating more opportunities than those around them. Add in the fact that they are having to adapt to playing in St Petersburg, and long term there is no cause for alarm. However, there are far easier teams to try and claim a first away win against than Lokomotiv, and they might struggle to make an impact.

Betting advice: €10 on Lokomotiv to win to nil @1.95 at bet365

Sunday, 18:00 BST: Zenit Saint Petersburg – Akhmat Grozny

By Thomas Giles (@thomas_giles_uk)

Despite only managing a draw at Ural the other night, Zenit still tops the table with thirteen points and have kept up their unbeaten record.

Zenit’s front line is undoubtedly the most frightening in Russia at the moment and it is no wonder that they lead the goalscoring chart with 11. A lot of this is down to the rejuvenated form of Aleksandr Kokorin who leads the individual goalscoring chart with four goals to his name. However, despite a summer of mass recruitment, their defence still remains a problem and Zenit have now failed to keep a clean sheet in their last three in all competitions.

Roberto Mancini’s side has had a good start to the season at the new Zenit Arena with two wins from two and seven goals scored. However, that aforementioned defence is still their Achilles heel with no clean sheets kept on home turf this campaign.

Akhmat is a club with a lot of potential and should really be looking to push for European football this season. So far, they have looked like they will do so with three wins from their opening four matches. However, they have now lost two games in a row away to Ufa then at home to Kononov’s old side, FC Krasnodar.

Prior to these losses, Oleg Kononov’s men had kept three clean sheets in three Premier League matches, scoring four goals in the process. However, that defensive collapse in the last ten minutes against Ufa was rather alarming, particularly going into this match against the best attack in the league. Furthermore, they lost against Krasnodar 3-2 following another very late goal.

The Chechen side actually won at the Zenit Arena last season by a 1-0 scoreline. However, in comparison with their home form, they have traditionally struggled on their travels. Last season they went on a run of just one win in eight away games.

Zenit has focused heavily on their attack this season and has somewhat neglected their defensive duties. Although this is a rather dangerous tactic, it is no doubt working for them at the moment and I expect them to come out on top at Zenit Arena. Having said that, Akhmat is good going forward so I think they will score on Sunday night.

Betting Advice: €10 on Zenit to win and both teams to score @3.75 at Bet365

Sunday, 18:00 BST: FC Krasnodar – Amkar Perm

By Will Baumgardner (@WillBaumRFN)

Krasnodar’s start to the season has largely been positive. Despite a mediocre draw to Ural and a loss at Spartak, quality wins at Rubin Kazan and Akhmat have given fans of the Bulls something to smile about. The victory at Akhmat last week was an especially uplifting one, as the Bulls won in extra time via academy striker Ivan Ignatyev. The emergence of academy players for the club has been another promising storyline to keep an eye on.

Amkar’s season, on the other hand, has been a little more depressing. Having lost 4 of their 5 games, and not having scored a goal all season, things do not look good for the Perm outfit. The sole silver lining here is that Amkar drew last week’s game against FC Ufa, and will look to build on that. Expect Amkar to sit back and try to eke out a draw.

Betting Advice: €10 on under 2.5 goals @2.68 at Bet365

Monday, 17:30 BST: Arsenal Tula – FC Ural

By Andrew Flint (@AndrewMijFlint)

Arsenal is nervously looking over their shoulders following the opening five games, especially after last weekend’s 2-1 home defeat to Tosno. Not that the loss in itself was a humiliation – there are far worse teams in the league – but it demonstrated how competitive other teams around them near the foot of the table can be. Losing to what was verging on Spartak’s second string was also not cause for panic in itself, but there is only so long those excuses will carry any weight.

Ural is riding the crest of a wave at the moment on the back of their first ever point against Zenit on Wednesday, which extended their unbeaten start to the season to five games. The last time they went longer without defeat was almost two years ago, and the boost from the electric atmosphere in Ekaterinburg will give them confidence going into this one. However, they have only scored once in every game so far this season, and star winger Chisamba Lungu is apparently on the verge of leaving after over seven years on the edge of Siberia, so it is unlikely they will bring a flurry of goals.

Betting Advice: €10 on a Draw @2.88 at bet365

 

RFN Total: +€314.19

Vincent Tanguy: +€159.65 (hit rate: 13/31) 

Thomas Giles: +€111.5 (hit rate 21/37) 

David Sansun: +€83.45 (hit rate: 17/48)

Ben Clark: +€81 (hit rate: 12/34)

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

Andrew Flint: +€70.1 (hit rate: 17/54) 

Lukas Müller: +€26.5 (hit rate: 4/13) 

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

Danny Armstrong: -€8 (hit rate: 2/6)

Artëm Markarevitch: -€19.1 (hit rate: 5/14)

James Nickels: -€25.7 (hit rate: 8/16) 

Martin Lowe: -€61 (hit rate: 4/14)

Toke Theilade: -€70.11 (hit rate: 9/28) 

Ilya Sokolov: -€73.9 (hit rate: 11/42)

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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