Manuel Veth –
Group E: Spartak Moscow Champions League Preview
Spartak Moscow – Champions League – The Stadium
Otkrytie Arena – (capacity 42759)
Spartak Moscow Champions League Preview – About the Club
Spartak Moscow are back in the Champions League after winning their first Russian championship since 2001. Head coach Massimo Carrera guided Spartak Moscow through an almost perfect 2016-17 season at which end the club finally ended a 16-year title drought. Spartak are together with Zenit Russia’s most famous club these days. Unlike Zenit, however, Spartak was also one of the most successful at the time of the Soviet Union.
The Myaso—meat as the club is called, because of its Soviet association with the food industry—dominated Russian football in the 1990s and early 2000s. The club won nine titles from 1992 to 2001. As a result, Spartak was a constant member of the early days of the UEFA Champions League. This year the club has qualified for Europe’s top competition for the 19th time, and it is Spartak’s 39th participation in a UEFA competition. Despite consistently taking part in UEFA competitions, however, Spartak has never won a European title. Three times Spartak managed to reach the semi-final of a UEFA competition. In 1991 the club was eliminated by Olympique Marseille in the European Cup, in 1993 it was Antwerp, who took them out in the semi-final of the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and finally in 1998 it was Inter Milan, who eliminated them in the semi-final of the UEFA Cup (now Europa League).
Spartak’s last deep run in an international competition dates back to the 2010-11 season where they were eliminated by Porto in the quarter-final of the Europa League. One of the main reasons for Spartak’s lack of success has been the long winter break. Strong group stage performances were therefore often followed up by poor performances in the first round of elimination games. The three-month winter break in Russian football has been a main topic on the Futbolgrad Network podcasts in the past and continues to be the main obstacle for Russian clubs in European competitions.
Another issue going into this season has been Spartak’s championship hangover. The club played a fantastic season last year. Guided by Italian head coach Massimo Carrera Spartak managed to get results even in tightly fought games. The former assistant coach of Antonio Conte was able to rally the troops last year and got his team to buy into a tactically controlled kind of football. This season, however, fifty-fifty games have seldom gone in Spartak’s favour and a poor start to the season has meant that Massimo Carrera has already come under fire.
Know Your Oligarch:
Oligarch Leonid Fedun bought the club in 2006. The oligarch, who is worth $4.26 billion, is a major shareholder of Russia’s biggest private oil company Lukoil. A smart businessman Fedun has been fantastic in improving the club’s infrastructure. Before becoming the owner of the club, Spartak never had a permanent home in Moscow. Instead, the club was like a travelling circus moving from one stadium to another. Fedun changed that when he gained control of 28.3 hectares of land at the former Tushino Airfield. Fedun then constructed the brand new Otkrytie Arena as well as an indoor arena and training fields on the land. He also got the city to open a new metro station right next to the stadium.
On the field, his meddling was one of the major reasons why it took the club eleven years until they would finally win a championship. Fedun is an impatient man, who has fired eleven coaches since taking over. Currently, there is fear that Carrera could be next should the Italian not manage to turn things around quickly. The Futbolgrad Network has learned that Fedun has already grown impatient with the club’s recent results and that Carrera’s name could be added to the long list of coaches that did not last long-term under Fedun’s ownership.
Spartak Moscow Champions League Preview – Opponents:
Spartak Moscow were given a fantastic group ahead of their return to the Champions League group stage. Liverpool FC will visit the club on matchday 2, and according to NetBet live odds, the English Premier League club are favourites to win the group. Liverpool will likely dominate this group that includes Spanish giants Sevilla and Slovenia’s champion NK Maribor. Sevilla has been a dominant force in European football winning five UEFA Europa League titles in the last eleven years. But the Spanish side has never been able to convert Europa League success to Champions League success. Maribor in the meantime are the big outsiders in the group and will most likely finish the group in the fourth spot.
Spartak Moscow Champions League Preview – What to Expect:
Spartak Moscow were handed a tough Champions League draw. Furthermore, as Tim Bogdachev recently explained on the Futbolgrad Podcast Champions League Special Spartak has struggled in the past when it comes to returning to European football after several years of absence. Spartak last reached the group stage of the UEFA Champions League in the 2012-13 season and has since been unable to qualify for the group stage of any European competition. As a result, the current Spartak side lacks a bit of experience when it comes to be competitive three times a week. Hence, Spartak will have to do some adjusting and will likely compete with NK Maribor for the third spot, which would qualify them for the round of 32 of the Europa League.
Spartak Moscow Champions League Preview – The Biggest Star
Quincy Promes is the club’s biggest star. Many expected the 25-year-old Dutch winger would leave the club after last season. But Promes has been fateful to Spartak expressing his wish to play the UEFA Champions League group stage with the club. At the same time, many expect that Promes, who had offers from Liverpool, Bayern and Dortmund in the past, will make the next step in his career following this season. A fast and dynamic player Promes is by many considered the successor to Arjen Robben in the Dutch national team. Promes certainly has the goal-scoring prowess of the Dutch superstar, but he will have to show that he can be as consistent as the Bayern München winger not just in domestic football, but also in the UEFA Champions League.
Spartak Moscow Champions League Preview – Likely Lineup
Selikhov – Dzhikiya, Bocchetti, Tasci – Kombarov, Fernando Yeshchenko – Pasalić, Glushakov – Luiz Adriano, Promes
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media junior editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.