Moscow (AFP) – Reigning Russian champions Lokomotiv face Spartak in the first Moscow derby of the league season on Saturday, as the country hopes to build on the success of the World Cup earlier in the summer.
The national team’s run to the last eight of the World Cup as hosts has boosted public interest in the Russian Premier League.
League chiefs reported that the new season’s opening matchday set a record total attendance of 170,000, while the 21,000 average match attendance surpassed last term’s overall mark by 7,000.
Last week’s highest attendance of 39,137 was recorded at Samara where the newly-promoted side played out a 0-0 draw with CSKA Moscow at their Samara Arena, which held six matches during the World Cup.
Lokomotiv, who lost 1-0 to CSKA in the Russian Super Cup, kicked off their title defence on Monday with a disappointing 0-0 draw at Ufa.
But head coach Yury Syomin is still confident for the rest of the campaign, after the recent signings of Polish international midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak and World Cup-winning German defender Benedikt Hoewedes.
“The goals will come soon as we played well and created chances,” Syomin told Russian TV. “Hopefully, we will be more successful against Spartak.”
Spartak, who have won a record 22 Russian titles, saw off Orenburg 1-0 in front of a large home crowd last weekend at their own World Cup host stadium.
Historically, they have had the upper hand in the derby, having won 26 times against Lokomotiv, with 14 draws and 21 defeats.
“My players are working hard in training and I think they will improve for the upcoming matches,” said Spartak coach Massimo Carrera.
Zenit St Petersburg, who beat Siberian top-flight debutants Yenisei Krasnoyarsk 2-0 thanks to late goals by Russian World Cup heroes Artem Dzyuba and Daler Kuzyayev in their campaign-opener, take on Arsenal Tula at their 67,800-capacity World Cup venue.
Zenit boss Sergei Semak said he is hoping that the legacy of the World Cup will help his team receive the support of bigger crowds.
“We believe that our fans will fill the stadium to support us,” he said. “It’s very important for us. And we will do everything possible to put them in good spirits.”
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Ural Yekaterinburg v Krasnodar (1100), Zenit St Petersburg v Arsenal Tula (1330), Lokomotiv Moscow v Spartak Moscow (1600)
Samara v Orenburg (1330), CSKA Moscow v Rostov (1600), Akhmat Grozny v Yenisei Krasnoyarsk (1830)
Ufa v Anzhi Makhachkala (1430)
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