Tuesday, March 9, 2010

week 1 preview of Rosgosstrakh Championship of Russia

The day is quickly approaching the all fans welcome as the start of the Rosgosstrakh Championship of Russia is upon us. It has been a long three-plus months since Rubin Kazan was crowned champions for the second consecutive period, with many trials, that includes the difficult loss of FC Moskva due to financial collapse but the domestic game has come out rock solid strong.

Kurban Berdyev's Rubin Kazan has adjusted with the loss of striker Alejandro Domínguez to Valencia with the addition of Fatih Tekke from Zenit Saint Petersburg but otherwise been quiet compared to his competition. Last year the manager was brilliant in juggling his line-up but Rubin faces considerable challenges with heavier competition as well as pushing deeper into the Europa League. Rubin's week one test will be no less than Yuriy Semin's Lokomotiv Moscow on Sunday, who is a dark-horse candidate to crash into the top three.

Last years most disappointing side, CSKA Moscow, open up the Russian season at Luzhniki Stadium against Amkar Perm on Friday. The Army-Men were plagued with tactical problems under then-manager Zico and after failings with Juande Ramos came on late once Leonid Slutsky was handed the reigns. CSKA unquestionably were the star of the winter signing market, adding Japanese international Keisuke Honda from VVV-Venlo, Seydou Doumbia from Young Boys and reliable young defender Kirill Nababkin. Though Daniel Carvalho and Vágner Love have been loaned out and unlikely to return to Moscow, the Army-Men have plenty of firepower, including Serbian superstar Miloš Krasić, Mark González, Tomáš Necid, Pavel Mamaev and playmaker Alan Dzagoev. If there is a chink in CSKA's armour, it is within defending and they will need Sergei Ignashevich and Vasili Berezutskiy to have banner years if they are to claim the championship.

Finishing second last year was Spartak Moscow, led by young virtuoso Valeriy Karpin. At only forty-one years of age, he led the Krasno-belye in a manner with flourish and restored a sense of youthful swagger to the attack. Resurrecting visions of the legendary Oleg Romantsev, Spartak rebounded under the new leader with scoring machine Welliton terrorizing the opposition. Along with teen protégé's Pavel Yakovlev and Jano Ananidze, as well as exciting winger Alex, Spartak added Ari along with the return Artem Dzyuba and Aleksandr Prudnikov from loan. Possibly the most important additions to the Spartak line-up will shore up defending with Marek Suchý on loan from Slavia Praha and Nikola Drinčić from Amkar Perm. Week one for Spartak opens with a Moscow derby on Sunday as they go up against Dynamo.

Any mention of the 2009 Russian campaign contains a special chapter wholly dedicated to Anatoli Davydov. Starting with his extraordinary career for Zenit Leningrad, through to his coaching career, he took over from Dick Advocaat in August and quickly pushed his side into a third place finish. With former Roma manager Luciano Spalletti now in-charge, Zenit has re-tooled its line-up with Aleksandr Kerzhakov returning from Dynamo, Danko Lazović from PSV and Danish international Michael Lumb from AGF. Along with Vladimir Bystrov, Danny and Szabolcs Huszti, Zenit possess one of the most potentially powerful attacks in Russia and an immediate threat to stand atop the league at years-end. Zenit opens the campaign in Samara against Krylia Sovetov on Saturday.

Not to be outdone with managerial success stories of Anatoli Davydov, Leonid Slutsky and Valeriy Karpin, this past May marked the triumphant return of Yuriy Semin to Lokomotiv Moscow from Dynamo Kiev. Under Mr. Semin, the Peoples Coach, the Railwaymen were nothing short of brilliant in rising to the fourth spot despite a number of personnel shortfalls. Following the departure of Diniyar Bilyaletdinov’s to Everton, Dmitri Sychev and Denis Glushakov rose to the occasion and provided noble leadership. The addition of Wágner quickly proved to be a masterstroke with youngsters Alan Gatagov and Renat Yanbayev showing bails of promise. Should Peter Odemwingie continue to emerge as a goal scorer, Lokomotiv will threaten for a Champions League spot and to further their attack have made the brilliant addition of Ukrainian international Oleksandr Aliyev. Lokomotiv will be tested early as they visit defending champions Rubin Kazan on Sunday.

Targeting a top six finish is Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast, who soared once Andrey Gordeev took over from Jürgen Röber. Boasting a veteran line-up of Dmitri Loskov, Andrei Karyaka, Dmitri Kirichenko and Marko Topić the Ramenskoe-based side have made critical additions of Denis Boyarintsev and Martin Jakubko and more than capable of testing a spot in Europe. Saturn opens their campaign on Sunday against Alania Vladikavkaz, who replaced FC Moscow after the Citizens financial backing pulled out.

Dynamo Moscow return to the hunt for a top six finish after a disappointing last half of season that saw them finish eighth. Troubled with enormous series of injuries, White-Blues manager Andrey Kobelev did well to squeeze out results. Dynamo has quickly re-built their line-up this winter with the formidable additions of Russian international Aleksei Rebko as well as Alexandru Epureanu, Aleksandr Samedov and Edgaras Česnauskis from FC Moscow, Andriy Voronin from Liverpool as well as Igor Semshov from Zenit Saint Petersburg. Dynamo should not be counted out of winning a spot in Europe and start their season with a clash against Spartak at Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday.

Pushing to the upper side of the table is Siberia's Tom Tomsk. Valeri Nepomniachi's side returns savvy Đorđe Jokić but have scored tremendous coups this winter with the addition of Kim Nam-Il from Vissel Kobe and Belarusian international Sergei Kornilenko return to Tomsk, on-loan from Zenit Saint Petersburg. Tomsk has also added Moldovan Serghei Covalciuc and should not be counted out for top half finish. Tomsk opens the campaign on Saturday as they visit Rostov.

The winter months were a tumultuous time for Krylia Sovetov as they faced enormous financial hurdles to escape the same fate of FC Moscow. Faced with uncertainty to this day, manager Yuri Gazzaev faces a daunting task that is likely to be a week-to-week test. Gone are Jan Koller, Jiří Jarošík, Timofei Kalachev and Vladislav Ignatyev and the Samarans will need to be tactically proficient to squeeze out points where they can as their line-up lacks the needed pedigree. Yevgeny Savin will loom large in the attack with the highly promising Aleksandr Stavpets, who came over from FC Moscow. Krylia open their season on Saturday as they welcome Zenit Saint Petersburg to Metallurg Stadion.

Spartak Nalchik managed the great escape in 2009 with a stunning last season run to avoid relegation. Manager Yuri Krasnozhan faces a difficult test losing goal scoring phenom Shamil Asildarov to Terek Grozny along with Antonio Ferreira and Dmitri Yatchenko, without a great deal of incoming talent. Nalchik visit newly promoted Anzhi Makhachkala on Saturday.

Despite flirting with relegation, Chechnya's Terek Grozny should contest for a mid-table finish. With playmaker Blagoy Georgiev leading the way, along with veteran striker Hector Bracamonte, Grozny has the talent to shine. Anatoly Baidachny's side have unloaded Romanian's Andrei Mărgăritescu, Daniel Pancu and Florentin Petre and made the superb additions of Maurício from Fluminense, Hugo Báez from CSKA Sofia as well Spartak Nalchik trio, Antonio Ferreira, Dmitri Yatchenko and Shamil Asildarov. Grozny visit newly promoted Sibir Novosibirsk on Sunday.

After a brilliant fourth place finish in 2008, Amkar Perm went into complete free-fall before Rashid Rakhimov returned to manage late. Avoiding relegation with a careful crafted tactical plan, the Red-Blacks finished at thirteenth and will be looking for significant improvement, though they are challenged with financial limitations. The Ural side have brought in young Croatian star Josip Knežević from Osijek and Denys Dedechko from Dynamo Kyiv as well as bringing Nikita Burmistrov in on-loan from CSKA Moscow and Arthur Stepanyan return from loan assignment. Rashid Rakhimov has a brilliant tactical touch with Amkar and will be tested in the league opener against the Army-Men at Luzhniki Stadium on Friday.

Rostov edged out survival last year and to assist this year’s efforts have made considerable additions to the line-up that includes Sorin Ghionea from Steaua Bucureşti, Timofei Kalachev from Krylia Sovetov, goalkeeper Dejan Radić from Spartak Nalchik as well as loaning Roman Adamov from Rubin Kazan and Stanislav Ivanov from Lokomotiv. Manager Oleh Protasov, is no stranger to football aficionados of the Soviet Union and has a very capable line-up. Rostov is targeting a mid-table finish and opens their campaign on Saturday as they welcome Tom Tomsk.

Anzhi Makhachkala won promotion after winning the First Division. Omari Tetradze's line-up has been bolstered with the additions of Mitar Peković from Vojvodina, Jan Holenda from Sparta Praha and Todor Timonov from CSKA Sofia. The Dagestan-based side welcome Spartak Nalchik on Saturday.

Alania Vladikavkaz was the benficiaries of FC Moscow's demise and return to the top flight of Russian football after five years in the lower division. Vladimir Shevchuk's side have quickly stockpiled talent that includes Sani Kaita, on loan from AS Monaco, as well as CSKA Sofia duo Ivan Ivanov and Ivan Stoyanov. Vladikavkaz first test of the upper tier will be Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast who visits on Sunday.

Sibir Novosibirsk enters the top flight of Russian football for the first time in its history. Manager Igor Kriushenko will be significantly tested with his tactical approach as his Siberian side are lacking in overall talent and surprised many with second-place finish in the First Division to win promotion. Novosibirsk will need veteran strikers Aleksandr Antipenko, Aleksei Medvedev and Gennadi Bliznyuk to produce if they are to have a chance. They begin their efforts on Sunday as they welcome Terek Grozny to the chilly confines of Spartak Stadium.

Prepared by J. Davies
©Joga Bonito Renegade Style, a division of Renegade Style Productions, 2010.
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