Less than 72 hours after recording a 3-2 win in a Europa League fixture against Jagodina, Rubin Kazan play host to title contenders Zenit in the second round of Russian Premier League.
Kurban Berdyev’s side will be looking to show some improvement this term after finishing the previous league campaign in sixth place.
The fact they were just three points behind a third-place finish can five them reason for optimism, although with all their rivals getting stronger over the summer, Rubin don’t seem to have done enough to remain top 6 contenders.
The likes of Igor Kasaev and Vladimir Dyadyun are likely to be sorely missed, while new players Inal Getigezhev, Vladislav Kulik and Alexander Prudnikov have yet to prove they can play at this level.
Rubin, nonetheless, had a good start to the league championship, holding Kuban Krasnodar to a 1-1 draw, even with Ryazantsev seeing a red card just before the half-time break.
Kurban Berdyev’s side then recorded a 3-2 away win over Serbian high-flyers Jagodina at the start of their Europa League campaign, but they could be feeling the ill-effects of the long journey when they host Zenit on Sunday morning.
With Ryazantsev missing the game through suspension, I don’t see value in odds of 3.05 (41/20) offered at Sportingbet on home win.
Meanwhile, Sergei Ryzhikov, Cesar Navas, Oleg Kuzmin, Gokdeniz Karadeniz and Vladislav Kulik should be recalled to the starting line-up.
Probable starting line-up (4-5-1): Ryzhikov – Kuzmin, Navas, Marcano, Ansaldi – Karadeniz, Natcho, M’Vila, Kulik, Eremenko – Rondon.
Zenit St Petersburg didn’t have such a successive season last term, missing out on the league trophy, while also struggling in their European campaign.
Given the heavy summer spending, much more was expected from Luciano Spalletti’s side, but they never quite managed to find the right form.
Zenit seem to have done better in the current transfer window, signing experienced players Andrei Arshavin and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, who could prove to be very important additions to the squad.
Key midfielder Igor Denisov and defender Bruno Alves both left, but their absence shouldn’t pose too big of a problem.
The 3-0 defeat to CSKA in the Russian Super Cup match was hardly a perfect way to start a new season, although Zenit did make amends by beating Krasnodar away in the league.
Luciano Spalletti’s side are now searching for the second successive victory and they are 2.40 (7/5) with Ladbrokes to win in Kazan.
Domenico Crsicito and Vyacheslav Malafeev continue to miss out, but Arshavin, Kerzhakov and Tymoshchuk should be recalled.
Probable starting line-up (4-3-2-1): Lodigin – Anyukov, Neto, Hubocan, Lombaerts – Witsel, Tymoshchuk, Zyryanov – Danny, Arshavin – Kerzhakov.
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