Zenit face Krasnodar boosted by Europe run


Moscow (AFP) – Zenit St Petersburg face Krasnodar this weekend boosted by a fifth straight win in the Europa League and the return of three players from suspension.

Zenit are placed second in the Russian Premier League, three points behind Spartak Moscow who play Terek Grozny.

After Thursday’s 2-0 Europa League defeat of Israeli side Maccabi Tel-Aviv Zenit coach Mircea Lucescu said: “I’m happy with the wins in our last matches against Samara and Maccabi.

“Winning increases self-confidence and helps to prepare for the next match.”

He added: “I believe the return of (Domenico) Criscito, (Axel) Witsel and (Luis) Neto, who all missed the match with Samara, will boost our performance at Krasnodar.”

Last season Krasnodar recorded a win and a draw against Zenit, who lead their head-to-head record by six wins against just one defeat, with three of their meetings ending in draws.

Spartak are seeking their first domestic title since 2001.

They have won their last five matches to stay out in front with coach Massimo Carrer encouraged by Dutch midfielder Quincy Promes’s return to fitness.

“Though Promes has just returned after an injury he looked really impressive against Amkar,” Carrera said. “I expect he will gain his form soon to help Spartak to show their best in the match at Grozny.

“I expect a tough match as Terek were disappointed with a home draw with Tomsk. No doubt they will try to show their best against the league leaders.” 

Reigning champions CSKA Moscow, who drew 1-1 with Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League on Tuesday, sit third, six points further back.

Their closing Champions League group game is at Wembley against Tottenham, where victory would secure them a ticket into the Europa League knockout stage as the third-placed team.

CSKA, who stopped their three-match winless domestic streak with a 1-0 win at Tula last week, take on struggling Rubin Kazan.

CSKA coach Leonid Slutsky is hoping the return of playmaker Alan Dzagoev will improve his team’s attack.

“Dzagoev looked very impressive against Bayer, his first match after a two-month absence through injury,” he said. “He has helped us to achieve a positive result. 

“Hopefully, he will play in a similar way in all of the remaining matches before the winter break.”

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Friday

Ufa v Orenburg (1400)

Saturday

Amkar Perm v Arsenal Tula (0830), CSKA Moscow v Rubin Kazan (1100), Lokomotiv Moscow v Ural Yekaterinburg (1400), terek Grozny v Spartak Moscow (1500)

Sunday

Samara v Tomsk (1100), Rostov v Anzhi Makhachkala (1330), Krasnodar v Zenit St Petersburg (1600)

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