From this spring, we are happy to announce that we have changed the format of the RFN Betting Advice. Instead of only covering a few games, from now on we’ll give you previews to all eight RFPL games each round, with an extensive look at one game, the Game of the Round.
In these previews, we’ll give you everything you need to know about the top flight, from injuries to form as well as all the chaotic aspects that surround the beautiful game in Russia.
We have previously proven that we can make serious money by betting on Russian football, so we’ll, of course, continue to provide you with betting advice for each game. The writer covering the game receives €10 from placing on any bet, and we’ll be updating our accounts before each round, meaning there’s full transparency with our winnings and losses.
GAME OF THE ROUND: Sunday 18:00 GMT Spartak Moscow – Zenit St. Petersburg
By Vincent Tanguy (@Spartak_M_VT)
This is a true six-pointer. League leaders Spartak face third-placed Zenit in a game between two of the biggest rivals in Russia. Spartak and Zenit are the two most popular clubs in the country, and with the championship on the line, this game has received the last spice, which it has been lacking for years now.
Carrera’s winning machine is still on the road
Spartak is only eight matches away from their 10th Russian championship, a title they haven’t won in 16 years. The Red-Whites currently have eight points down to CSKA and Zenit, and beating the latter would be the perfect way to start off the series of difficult games that awaits them by the end of this month, which include away games against Rostov and CSKA and a home game against cup finalist Ural.
With an eight-point gap, losing the game wouldn’t be a catastrophe for Spartak, but considering their difficult schedule, it could have severe psychological consequences on the squad, which lacks experience from title fights. Doubts could hit the squad and put gravel in the otherwise perfect winning machine created by head coach Massimo Carrera.
The effectiveness of the machine was proved two weeks ago when they secured a 3-2 victory at home against Orenburg with a goal in the 96th minute. Before that, they had thrown away a 2-0 lead, and it looked like they were about to choke. However, the Red-Whites fought until the end, and with the victory, their gap down to Zenit and CSKA, who both dropped points, grew.
Lucescu is in trouble
Unlike Spartak, who keep piling up victories, Zenit is in serious trouble at the moment. The Blue-White-Sky Blues are yet to show their best side this spring, and last week they drew 1-1 at home against Anzhi after a truly shocking performance. Lucescu’s men showed serious problems offensively and made several unnecessary mistakes in both ends of the pitch.
The poor results have caused tension to reach the public sphere and midfielder Oleg Shatov has openly criticised coach Lucescu for his team selection. In response, Lucescu told the press that he couldn’t trust Shatov and that he didn’t train properly.
Earlier this week, the Romanian coach admitted that the championship race is over if Zenit lose in Moscow, and a defeat will make Lucescu’s seat even warmer
Both coaches struggle with injuries
Spartak returned from their game in Ufa with some significant injuries. Strikers Luiz Adriano and Ze Luis are both in doubt after having picked up injuries, and if they are unable to play, it could make room for Lorenzo Melgarejo in the starting line-up. The Paraguayan has been a disappointment since moving to Spartak from Kuban last winter, but he scored against Ufa.
As for Zenit, they’ll have to do without Lombaerts who is suspended. Defenders Ivan Novoseltsev is furthermore injured, just like midfielders Aleksandr Ryazantsev and Viktor Faizulin. The absence of Novoseltsev, Lombaerts usual back-up, means that the young Evgeny Chernov could get his 5th league start this season.
Spartak: Rebrov – Dzhykia, Kutepov, Bocchetti, Kombarov – Fernando, Glushakov – Promes, Ananidze, Zobnin- Ze Luis
Zenit: Lunev – Tsallagov, Ivanovic, Chernov, Criscito – Javi Garcia, Hernani – Danni, Giuliano, Kokorin Dzyuba
I have a feeling this will end in a draw. Not losing is more important for Spartak than winning at this stage, and I don’t think Zenit has the necessary quality to get away from Moscow with a victory at the moment.
€10 on Draw @3.25 at Bet365
Saturday 10:00 GMT Amkar Perm – FC Ufa
By Ilya Sokolov (@Lokosokol)
Both Amkar and Ufa have been among the surprises this season, and well into the last third of the season, they are both placed in the top half of the league. However, it looks like both of them are eager to avoid that, as they have both dropped points lately.
As for Amkar, they were in prime position to challenge for European qualification, and they even beat mighty Zenit. The week after however, they lost to Tom Tomsk after a truly horrible performance, and head coach Gadzhi Gadzhiev once again proved that he will help you survive in the top flight, but not qualify you for Europe.
As for Ufa, they should be motivated after three defeats in a row, two to Lokomotiv, one of them in the cup semi-final, and one to Spartak. The series of defeats is disappointing considering Sergey Semak’s good start to the spring, but reality has hit the club, and they are no longer punching above their weight.
It should be mentioned that they have been without Nigerian winger Sylvester ‘Sly’ Igboun lately, and they are a completely different team without him. Like Barcelona without Messi. Igboun is still injured though, and it remains doubtful whether or not he gets ready for the game against Amkar.
Betting advice: €10 on Ufa +0.5 @1.75 at Bet365
Saturday 12:30 GMT: CSKA Moscow – FC Rostov
By James Nickels (@JamesNickels)
Viktor Goncharenko’s side is unbeaten since the Belarusian took over during the winter break, but stalled slightly after a 1-1 draw away to Krasnodar last weekend. CSKA must defeat Rostov to qualify for the Champions League ahead of Zenit. While Rostov has now gone five games unbeaten, but have recorded four successive 0-0 draws and will need to win to keep up their quest for European football again next season.
CSKA go into the game without Roman Eremenko, which has been an accustomed tradition since his doping ban was accrued in October 2016. Georgi Milanov has missed the last three games with a knee injury sustained after the 1-0 win away in Grozny and may miss out this weekend too. Alan Dzagoev and Alexei Berezutskiy have also each missed the last two games after sustaining a hamstring injury and abdominal muscles injury respectively, but Goncharenko has claimed in his post-match press conference at Krasnodar that the pair may be ready to play.
Rostov meanwhile will still be deprived of long-term absentees Soslan Dzhanaev and Vladimir Granat who still miss-out through respective pinched nerve and fractured collarbone injuries. Ivan Daniliants in his post-match press conference at Lokomotiv claimed Fyodor Kudryashov is also a doubt after coming off late due to injury, but there has not been any diagnosis nor length of time announced as yet.
Despite Rostov’s recent impressive defensive performances, a resurgent CSKA with Dzagoev back and ever improving strike force should win in front of their fans at the VEB Arena.
Betting Advice: €10 on Under 2.5 goals @1.5 at Bet365
Saturday 15:00 GMT: Anzhi Makhachkala – Krylia Sovetov Samara
By James Nickels (@JamesNickels)
Anzhi returns to Dagestan after pulling off a real coup, drawing 1-1 with Zenit during the home team’s farewell to the Petrovsky Stadium. Krylia goes into the game on a current six-game winless run since their shock 4-0 dismantling of Spartak at the Metallurg Stadium in December and need to win to put space behind themselves and Orenburg in the last automatic relegation playoff spot.
The hosts go into the game with an almost clean bill of health, only Sergei Bryzgalov will miss out through a calf injury, tearing his muscle in the game at home to Ural.
Krylia will play without Vadim Skripchenko leading his charges on the touchline, as he undergoes a one-game touchline ban after being sent to the stands for interfering with the assistant referee during last week’s 2-2 draw at home to Amkar. Vyacheslav Zinkov is also banned for the Anzhi game after receiving two yellow cards during the same match and getting sent off. Milan Rodic is Krylia’s only real injury worry, having missed the last three games and is once again doubtful after missing training in midweek.
I’d expect a close game that may just go in favour of Krylia due to the recent head-to-head records between the two; Krylia has won four of the last six, losing only once.
Betting Advice: €10 on Sergei Kornilenko to score anytime @4.33 at Bet365
Saturday 17:30 GMT Rubin Kazan – FC Krasnodar
By Andrew Flint (@AndrewMijFlint)
This match is a clash of two teams struggling to hit top form; the question is, who can arrest the slide? Rubin was embarrassed last weekend by being held to a 2-2 draw by rock-bottom side Tom Tomsk; even allowing for the atrocious pitch that has failed to pass RFPL inspections this season, the inability to break down the ragged Siberians was a disastrous loss of points.
Krasnodar can at least point to a creditable 1-1 draw against CSKA a week ago, but it remains a massive missed opportunity to consolidate their fourth place after going ahead through Fyodor Smolov’s 12th of the season. Such is the intensity of the of chasing pack that just two teams from 4th to 10th have won more than once in the last five matches, so by default rather than merit they are in pole position in the race for Europa League.
Betting Advice: €10 on HT Draw, FT Krasnodar @6.00 at Bet365
Sunday 10:30 GMT: Terek Grozny – FC Orenburg
By Vincent Tanguy (@Spartak_M_VT)
This could be described as a game of two poles. Terek Grozny is still in the running for European qualification, two points behind Krasnodar on the 4th place, while Orenburg is 15th and fight to stay in the RFPL. Obviously, this makes Terek huge favourites, but Orenburg have played well lately, and things are not as simple as they look.
Rashid Rakhimov’s Terek on the other hand, have struggled since the winter break and have won just one game this year. That victory, however, came last week at home against Arsenal Tula, who were defeated 3-1, and it could be a sign of better things to come for the Chechen side.
Betting advice: €10 on Terek to win 1-0 @5.00 at Bet365
Sunday 13:00 GMT FC Ural – Tom Tomsk
By Andrew Flint (@AndrewMijFlint)
Aleksandr Tarkhanov has been a breath of fresh air in Ekaterinburg, revitalising a limp home form and guiding the club into the Russian Cup final. Ural still have the worst defensive record outside the relegation playoff places, but in recent weeks the SKB Bank Arena has turned into something of a fortress – they have won their last four competitive fixtures there, and Tom Tomsk represent the weakest opponents yet.
To be fair to Tom, they have somehow scraped together four points from their last three RFPL matches when nobody gave the much hope of even scoring, yet alone earning points, so they shouldn’t be written off completely. They have failed to score in their previous six away games though, and have conceded eleven in the last four on the road. Add in the returning Roman Emelyanov to midfield, and Ural is clear favourites.
Betting advice: €10 on Ural to win to nil @1.56 at Stan James (Bet365 doesn’t offer odds on this game)
Sunday 15:30 GMT Arsenal Tula – Lokomotiv Moscow
By Ilya Sokolov (@Lokosokol)
Arsenal Tula isn’t as bad as many of us thought when the spring-season kicked off. They have already won two games, against Ural and Tomsk, and their only defeats came away against Zenit, CSKA and Terek. Nevertheless, they still don’t look better than direct relegation rivals Krylia Sovetov and Orenburg, and remains among the favourites to take the trip down to the FNL.
Lokomotiv on the other hand are only four points behind the 4th place. The Railwaymen are however fighting against tough opponents for the last Europa League spot, and they will have to climb past five other clubs to get the 4th place.
After switching to a 3-5-2 during the winter break, Lokomotiv have been one of the best teams in the spring, and they recently qualified for the Russian cup final. Furthermore, offensive midfielder Aleksey Miranchuk, who is set to leave the club this summer, is back in top shape, and he is playing some fantastic football at the moment.
Betting advice: €10 on Manuel Fernandes to score anytime @5.50 at Bet365
RFN Total: +€262.69
Vincent Tanguy: +€205.15 (hit rate: 10/21)
Thomas Giles: +€113 (hit rate 20/35)
Ben Clark: +€101 (hit rate: 12/32)
David Sansun: +€83.25 (hit rate: 11/40)
Jack Beresford: +€45.7 (hit rate 3/8)
Andrew Flint: €23.1 (hit rate: 12/43)
Stefano Conforti: +€0.5 (hit rate: 3/9)
Danny Armstrong: -€8 (hit rate: 2/6)
Martin Lowe: -€30 (hit rate: 0/4 – 0 %)
Toke Theilade: -€18.11 (hit rate: 6/16)
Artëm Markarevitch: -€25.6 (hit rate: 1/4)
James Nickels: -€26 (hit rate: 1/4)
Lukas Müller: -€40 (hit rate: 0/4)
Ilya Sokolov: -€109.4 (hit rate: 7/34)
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.