The title is Rubin Kazan's and the story of the year might just be manager Kurban Berdyev. With prayer beads in hand, he has led to a stunning climb up the table from last years tenth place finish using a selection of wily veterans such as Savo Milošević, Dynamo Kyiv legend Serhiy Rebrov and Gökdeniz Karadeniz. Led by Russian internationals Sergei Semak and Sergey Ryzhikov, Rubin Kazan heads to Yaroslavl on Saturday to face Shinnik Yaroslav who appear condemned to relegation. Gökdeniz Karadeniz is likely to sit this match out, recovering from injury that kept him out of action for his native Turkey but Kurban Berdyev has sufficient forces at his disposal to take another step towards the championship.
Before the international break Zenit St Petersburg sent out a loud and clear message to the rest of the league as they humiliated Luch-Energiya Vladivostok 8-1. It was definitely a rallying cry for the home supporters and Zenit is fully charged to run up the table with an extra match to play. Previously they have had extensive problems after international week with fatigue setting in and with six players playing for Russia alone as well Ivica Križanac (Croatia), Kim Dong-Jin (Korea Republic), Radek Šírl (Czech Republic), Danni (Portugal) and of-course the skipper, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Ukraine) it will not be any easier. With a five matches in the next thirteen days, manager Dick Advocaat will be pushing the club to its limit. As they head to souther Russia to face Spartak Nalchik they will want to score early and lock down this match defensively.
Under Michael Laudrup Spartak Moscow has went through a radical transformation and Krasno-Belye supporters are very optimistic for next year. Of recent they have lost hard-fought 1-0 matches to Rubin Kazan and Kryliya Sovetov Samara and looking very capable of a late season charge up the table. As they welcome Saturn Moscow Oblast to Luzhniki, the Russian capped trio of Vladimir Bystrov,Ivan Saenko and nineteen year-old Aleksandr Prudnikov will be in a hunt for goals. Jürgen Röber's Oblast squad will play a highly defensive match, packing the midfield and not over committing to the attack.
Else where on Saturday Tom' Tomsk makes the near impossible road-trip to Vladivostok face Luch-Energiya.
On Sunday four matches are featured that will have an immediate impact upon the table.
The day starts with Dynamo Moscow visiting Terek Grozny. Andrey Kobelev's Dynamo look foreboding at this time and with a classic battle against CSKA Moscow next week, they will need to stay focused upon Grozny. Igor Semshov will lead out a brilliant midfield of Dmitry Khokhlov, brothers Dmitri and Krill Kombarov with Denis Kolodin holding down the backline. Terek Grozny is long out of the race but revels in playing the "spoiler." Romanian internationals Andrei Mărgăritescu and Florentin Petre inspire efficient play, frustrated Amkar Perm' to a nil draw before the break. Dynamo is in need of a victory here and while they must be the aggressor, they need to be aware that will pounce on the counter.
Amkar Perm' travels to Moscow to face CSKA Moscow in what is becoming a "do or die" situation for Amkar. They have seen their solid European hopes be threatened with two consecutive nil draws and now must face one of the finest 'keepers in the world, Russian international Igor Akinfeev. Koni's back-line of Sergei Ignashevich, Deividas Šemberas, Aleksei and Vasili Berezutskiy are a joy to watch to those who appreciate great defenders. Yuri Zhirkov, Serbian international Miloš Krasić, Vágner Love are on the top of their game and the eighteen year-old phenom Alan Dzagoev continues to be one stories of the entire year as he appears to headed for stardom.
In other action FC Moscow visits Samara Kryliya Sovetov, with Krysy still very much in the hunt for the Champions League. Their aspirations took a tough turn with a 1-0 loss to Spartak Moscow last week and they will need to rebound against the Citizens if they are to make up for lost ground. Jan Koller and Oleg Ivanov have formed a reliable striking duo with Anton Bober and the legendary Andrey Tikhonov pushing the club forward in the attack.
In the final match of the day relegation threatened Khimki visits Lokomotiv Moscow with Lokomotiv's chances for a European bid all but eliminated. However they are packed with young emerging talent in the backline of Nikita Denisov, Sergei Efimov and Renat Yanbayev with Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Denis Glushakov and Dmitri Torbinski in the midfield. Along with Dmitriy Sychev in the attacking end, this club has enormous promise and simply needs to harness it properly.
|Rosgosstrakh Championship of Russia||P||W||D||L||GS||GA||Pts|
|Zenit St Petersburg||23||10||7||6||48||29||37|
|Kryliya Sovetov Samara||24||9||10||5||35||21||37|