Krasnodar vs Zenit Saint Petersburg – Thursday 16:00 GMT/17:00 CET at Stadion Krasnodar.
This weeks Futbolgrad top game takes us to southern Russia where Krasnodar is hosting Zenit Saint Petersburg in the beautiful new Stadion Krasnodar. Both teams were in action on Thursday, as Zenit hosted Maccabi Tel-Aviv on matchday 5 of the UEFA Europa League at the Petrovsky Stadium. Mircea Lucescu chose to rotate his squad fielding the 22-year-old Montenegrin Luka Djordjević in the starting line-up. Furthermore, Aleksandr Kerzhakov also received some playing time in what ended up being a comfortable 2-0 victory for the Sine-Belo-Golubye, who together with Schalke and Shakhtar remain the only team to have won all five of their Europa League matches.
Krasnodar had lost their previous two Europa League encounters against Schalke 04, and were therefore under pressure on matchday 5 of the Europa League. Hosting Red Bull Salzburg, Krasnodar needed a draw to qualify for the round of 32 of the Europa League. Munas Dabbur gave Salzburg the early lead in the 37 minute, and Krasnodar struggled to find a way into the match until the 85th minute when star striker Fedor Smolov equalized the score for the Bulls.
The return of Smolov to the fold is indeed good news for Krasnodar, as the side has somewhat struggled to get consistent results without the star striker. Krasnodar only won three of their last six league matches, and find themselves fifth in the Russian Football Premier League. With 24 points Krasnodar are one point behind third placed CSKA Moscow and fourth placed Terek Grozny, and seven points behind second placed Zenit, and ten points behind league leaders Spartak Moscow. Many deemed Krasnodar as one of the dark horse this year, but ten points off the top of the table makes it unlikely for Krasnodar to become a major player in the title race this season, and instead the club will have to secure points in order to secure a spot in next season’s Europa League.
Zenit meanwhile are back in the title race, after spending much of last season chasing the top of the table. The club ended up finishing third, missing out on a valuable Champions League spot. Things are different under Mircea Lucescu this season; however, as Zenit are second, three points behind league leaders Spartak Moscow. Zenit have also won five out of their last six matches, with their only defeat coming away against Terek Grozny on matchday 13. Under Lucescu Zenit have become a much more attractive side to watch, with Aleksandr Kokorin, the Brazilian Giuliano, and striker Artem Dzyuba especially impressing for the club. Lucescu has also managed to re-integrate midfielder Axel Witsel after his failed last minute transfer to Juventus Turin last summer.
Krasnodar vs Zenit – Head to Head Stats
- Zenit are undefeated in nine of their last 10 matches against FC Krasnodar.
- Krasnodar’s last victory against Zenit was on August 15 2015 when Krasnodar defeated Zenit 2-0 at the Petrovsky Stadium.
- The last encounter between the two sides ended in a 0-0 draw at the old Kuban Stadium in Krasnodar.
Krasnodar vs Zenit – Player to look out for:
Fedor Smolov is back in the fold. Smolov, who was turned from a winger to a central forward, had a breakout year in the 2015-16 season. In the first half of the 2015-16, where he mostly played out wide, Smolov scored six goals in 18 games. Then in the second half of last season he scored 12 goals in just 11 games winning the scoring title in the RFPL. Smolov has missed some games with injury this season, and therefore has managed nine starts. Yet his strike rate is once again top notch, as he has scored nine goals in nine games, which makes him once again the top marksman in Russian football.
Aleksandr Kokorin continues his stellar form under Mircea Lucescu. Lucescu has turned the center forward into a right-winger. As a result Kokorin has been much more efficient, as he can use his pace to overrun opponents. Teams also seem to find it more difficult to track the young Russian, as he often cuts in from his position to crash the net in the center. A great example of this was his goal against Maccabi Tel-Aviv, which was his fourth goal in as many Europa League starts.
Krasnodar vs Zenit – Match Stats
- Krasnodar scored four goals in each of their last four home games in all competitions.
- Fedor Smolov scored in his comeback on Thursday against Red Bull Salzburg. The goal secured his side a valuable point, and a place in the round of 32 of the Europa League.
- Smolov has been key for Krasnodar this season, as he has scored nine out of the club’s overall 20 goals.
- Zenit lead the RFPL in terms of average ball possession (58.2%), and pass accuracy 83.4%.
Futbolgrad’s Prediction: Krasnodar vs Zenit 1-2
Kritsyuk – Torbinski, Granquvist, Naldo, Kaleshin – Kaboré, Pereyra, Gazinskiy – Joãozinho, Smolov, Akhmedov
Manager: Igor Shalimov
Zenit Saint Petersburg
Lodygin – Criscito, Lombaerts, Neto, Novoseltsev – Witsel, Garcia – Mak, Giuliano, Kokorin – Dzyuba
Manager: Mircea Lucescu