Spartak Moscow – Lokomotiv Moscow Super Cup Preview

Lokomotiv Stadium during the 2016 Russian Super Cup game between Zenit and CSKA. Photo: Danny Armstrong/RFN

Lokomotiv Stadium during the 2016 Russian Super Cup game between Zenit and CSKA. Photo: Danny Armstrong/RFN

As usual, the Russian football season kicks off with the annual Super Cup game between the league champions and the cup winners. This season the game is between local rivals Spartak Moscow and Lokomotiv Moscow, and it is set to be a hotly contested affair, while the intensity of the match on the pitch should be matched by the intensity in the stands. The newly renovated Lokomotiv Stadium is the venue for the match, and all officials involved are expecting a sellout crowd of around 27,000, which should make for a raucous atmosphere for the first real match of the season.

While Spartak and Lokomotiv are both Moscow teams, they enter the game in very different situations. Spartak appeared to approach their offseason with the motto “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” in mind. With the exception of signing loanee left back Georgi Tigiev to a permanent deal, and signing Serbian right back Marko Petkovic, this Spartak team is unchanged from last year, and that is hardly a bad thing. The club has done well to keep its star forward Quincy Promes and has managed to extend the contracts of several other major players including Ze Luis, positioning them to again be major players in the race for the championship.

Lokomotiv enter the contest in a very different position from their Moscow rivals. Last season, head coach Yuri Semin’s comeback season in charge of Lokomitiv, the Railroaders finished a disappointing eighth place in the league, with a massive 27-point gap separating them from Spartak. Had the club not won the Cup, which grants them passage to the Europa League, their season would have been considered a total failure.

Despite the somewhat disappointing results from last season, Lokomotiv have not been especially active in the transfer market. Their biggest arrivals include Nikita Medvedev, who was Rostov’s star goalkeeper from last season, Georgian defender Solomon Kverkvelia, and Brazilian striker Ari. While the transfers of Kverkvelia and Ari seem to be astute business decisions, the signing of Medvedev is a little puzzling, considering that Lokomotiv already has an excellent goalkeeper with a Russian passport in Guilherme. Lokomotiv’s departures also leave them with some depth issues, as two fullbacks, Roman Shishkin and Renat Yanbaev, have both joined Krasnodar in the offseason, while another, Vitaly Denisov, is injured.

Both teams have important players out

Coming into the game, both teams appear to be taking this game with the utmost seriousness, despite it not having any direct bearing on the league. They do however both have some significant injuries.

Spartak are without excellent midfielder Roman Zobnin, who picked up a serious injury prior to the Confederations Cup, as well as central defender Serdar Tasci. As for Lokomotiv, they are without the injured captan Vedran Corluka. Reserves Boris Rotenberg Jr and Delvin N’Dinga are also out with injures.

Two strong midfields

Spartak in particular seem to be treating this game as a chance to throw down the gauntlet, with head coach Massimo Carrera stating that the Super Cup is a “match to be won” in the pre-game press conference. This statement suggests that we can expect to see dangerman Quincy Promes featuring prominently on the right side of Spartak’s attack. Given Lokomotiv’s weakness in the fullback position, Promes should be able to have his way with whoever is charged with playing left back for Lokomotiv.

Equally important for Spartak is the midfield duo of Fernando and Denis Glushakov, who will be charged with controlling the midfield and dictating the tempo of the game. Given how effective the duo was at dictating games last year, it’d be a surprise to see anything other than Spartak controlling the pace of this contest. Spartak’s midfield is certainly weakened, however, by the absence of star midfielder Roman Zobnin.

Of the two teams, Lokomotiv actually have more riding on this game than Spartak. Semin is under pressure to start winning games soon, and the team’s campaign to bring fans back to Lokomotiv stadium would be hugely boosted by a win over a rival like Spartak.

Coming off of an impressive end to last year, Ari should be expected to be the focal point of Lokomotiv’s attack, especially considering Brazilian forward Maicon’s departure in the offseason. Ari is excellent in the air and capable in hold up play, which should allow Lokomotiv’s attacking midfielders to get involved around the goal.

Lokomotiv’s midfield is one of the strong points of their team. Young star Aleksey Miranchuk should feature prominently in the middle of the pitch, and has an excellent eye for picking out key passes. In addition to Miranchuk, Manuel Fernandes has huge playmaking ability- his slalom runs through midfield and eye for goal make him a huge threat on offense. Sitting in the base of midfield will be newly appointed captain Igor Denisov, who will add experience and composure to the whole unit.

Defense is where Lokomotiv appear to be the weakest, especially since captain Vedran Corluka remains injured. Newly signed Kverkvelia does make the team stronger in the middle of the pitch, but their fullback situation is a definite problem. The most likely starters at fullback will be Vladislav Ignatyev- a winger by trade, and Taras Mykhalyk- a defensive midfielder by trade.

Expected line-ups

Spartak- 4-2-3-1: Rebrov – Kombarov, Dzhikiya, Kutepov, Eshchenko – Fernando, Glushakov – Samedov, Ananidze, Promes – Ze Luis

Lokomitiv- 4-2-3-1: Guilherme – Mykhalyk, Kverkvelia, Pejcinovic, Ignatyev – Tarasov, Denisov – Fernandes, Miranchuk, Farfan – Ari

Match prediction

Spartak have to be considered a definite favourite in this game, for a few reasons. For one, Spartak finished 27 points above Lokomotiv last season, and neither team has added any game-changing players that would alter that disparity. One could also look at the head to head matchups between the teams last season. In the first game, the teams played a 1-1 draw, but in the second meeting Spartak demolished Lokomotiv 4-0. While Ari and Lokomotiv’s other talented midfielders should provide some attacking threat, Spartak’s overall quality and discipline should carry the day. It will take some magic for Lokomotiv to walk away from this one with a win.

Author: Will Baumgardner

College student in the United States and avid Krasnodar fan. Sergey Galitskiy is the man.

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