Spartak Moscow vs St Gallen

August 28, 2013
By: Nemanja Lazarevic

Spartak Moscow are well in the driving seat following a 1-1 stalemate in the first leg and the Russian side remain hot favourites to make it to the next round. St Gallen are hoping the opposition injury crisis will help them keep the tie alive for as long as possible, and maybe even pip their more illustrious opponents to a place in the group stage.

Huge strength in depth proving crucial

Spartak Moscow had been struggling to return to old glory days up until former player Valeriy Karpin was appointed head coach in April 2009, but he has done really well to take the team to the next level. That is why everybody was surprised to see him get the boot last summer, but club chiefs only needed several months to admit they were wrong and reinstated the talented boss last November. Spartak went on to finish the league campaign in fourth place despite the fierce competition and have since continued where they left off. Buoyed by summer signings Denis Glushakov, Tino Costa, Aras Ozbiliz, Lucas Barrios and Joao Carlos, the team enjoyed a bright start to the league campaign, and currently sit just three points behind leaders CSKA. The serious injury crisis saw Spartak drop quite a few points over the last few weeks, but with several important players returning, Valeriy Karpin’s men should have no problems getting past weak St Gallen to secure their place in the Europa League group stages. In an attempt to end a four-match winless run and record a morale-boosting victory, the hosts are expected to attack from the off, and I cannot see their opponents surviving the early pressure.

Jose Manuel Jurado and Aiden McGeady are back after missing the first leg through injury, while Kim Kallstrom could also return. New signing Joao Carlos is ineligible, whereas Bocchetti, Bryzgalov, Rebrov, Romulo and Dikan are out injured.

Uphill task for St Gallen

Having balanced between the top two divisions of Switzerland’s league system, St Gallen became known as a yo-yo club, but they have done well to shake off the tag last term. After gaining promotion from the second division, Espen impressed to achieve a top 3 finish in the top flight, which in turn saw them qualify for the Europa League. They have, however, been unable to keep hold of 21-goal striker Ezequiel Scarione, who moved to Turkey, whereas important players Franck Etoundi and Pa Modou Jagne also left. The biggest problem is that the club failed to sign proper replacements for the aforementioned players, so it is pretty clear St Gallen won’t be able to repeat the heroics from last season. Espen had a pretty disappointing start to the season, suffering back to back defeats to Grasshoppers and Thun, but they showed some improvement to pick up eight points from next four league fixtures. And while they somehow managed to avoid home defeat to injury-hit Spartak Moscow, I just don’t see how they are going to match their more illustrious opponents in the return leg, especially with two key midfielders back for Spartak.

Key midfielder Kristian Nushi has not been granted a Russian visa, while Ilija Ivic, Muhamed Demiri and Dzengis Cavusevic remain sidelined.


Spartak are clearly few classes above their next opponents in terms of quality and European experience, and they should have no problems recording a resounding victory in the return leg. St Gallen have shown some improvement of late, but seeing as how they are even weaker than last season, their chances of producing an upset here are next to none.

Top pick: Spartak/Spartak   2.16 (29/24) @ Betfair

Alternative pick 1: Spartak with -1.5 Asian handicap   2.30 (13/10) @ bet365

Alternative pick 2: Over 2.5 goals   1.73 (8/11) @ BetVictor

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