Spartak Moscow vs Sevilla – Tuesday, October 17, 19:45 BST/20:45 CET – Otkritie Arena – Moscow, Russia
Massimo Carrera was looking over the precipice not long ago as he seemed days from losing his Spartak Moscow job, with the recent turnaround in fortunes but a pipe dream. However, Spartak are now on their longest unbeaten run in all competitions in the last decade and are sitting in the European qualification places in the Russian Football Premier League having been just two places above the relegation zone only six matchdays ago. A title challenge may be beyond them at this stage, but with the minimum requirement of a return to the Champions League well within reach, the ship has been steadied.
Extensive fitness problems – including four cruciate ligament injuries – have severely hampered their first team options in recent weeks. Up to seven first-choice starters were out of action before the international break, but the star man Quincy Promes and captain Denis Glushakov have returned from hamstring injuries, the latter opening the scoring in typically dynamic fashion at the weekend.
Although relatively uninspiring in the opening round against Maribor and perhaps a shade fortunate that one of Liverpool’s myriad chances didn’t find the net last time out, they remain in charge of their destiny. Failure to win against Sevilla would make the progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League an uphill struggle though, so the onus is on Carrera and his stretched squad.
Sevilla are one of the most experienced continental campaigners having won three consecutive Europa League titles this decade, but have been through a busy summer transfer window that saw over £100m in deals go through. They sit two points clear at the top of the group though, having already safely negotiated arguably their toughest fixture with a decent 2-2 draw away to Liverpool, and have the second-highest goalscorer in this season’s Champions League in Wissam Ben Yedder.
Like Spartak, Sevilla have injury concerns of their own. Simon Kjær and Stephen N’Zonzi both finished the uninspiring 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao with question marks over their participation in Moscow, and with Daniel Carriço and Nicolás Pareja also out, there are precious few options for Eduardo Berizzo in central defence. This European fixture is the second of four consecutive away matches in all competitions for Sevilla, so the potential absence of key players is a blow.
They have struggled to score freely this season, with only nine goals in their eight league matches so far. The end of Stevan Jovetić and Luciano Vietto’s loans from Internazionale and Atletico Madrid respectively has left them slightly light up front, while their primary replacement, Sampdoria’s Luis Muriel, hasn’t been able to tie down a regular starting place. With less pressure on them – given two of their three remaining fixtures will be at home, including against bottom club Maribor – the Spanish side may be happy to return to a point.
Spartak Moscow vs Sevilla – Players to Watch
Denis Glushakov #8 – Spartak Moscow
The inspirational captain is the heartbeat of the Russian champions, especially during the prolonged absence of the technically-gifted Roman Zobnin. While flying Dutchman Quincy Promes often grabs the headlines with his goalscoring threat and searing speed, it is perhaps more important that Glushakov is on form for the whole side to tick, as it is his energetic displays that link attack and defence so crucially. To break down the Spanish visitors, it will take more than just raw pace; Glushakov’s engine will be critical.
Wissam Ben Yedder #9 – Sevilla
The Frenchman has scored all but one of Sevilla’s group-stage goals this term and represents his side’s main outlet for damaging the opposition defence. Despite measuring just 5’7”, the former French international futsal player may be asked to play a lone striker’s role in the Russian capital, but his pace and movement will be a similar proposition that troubled Spartak’s three-man defence against Liverpool in September.
Spartak Moscow vs Sevilla – Match Stats
- Spartak have lost half of their 26 fixtures against Spanish opposition
- Spartak have failed to keep a clean sheet in the last 14 Champions League matches
- Including pre-group stage qualifiers, Sevilla have only lost one of their last six Champions League away matches
- Before their most recent outing against Maribor, Sevilla had conceded eight goals in their previous five Champions League matches
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Spartak Moscow vs Sevilla: 1-1
Spartak Moscow vs Sevilla – Possible Lineups
Selikhov – Dzhikia, Bocchetti, Tasci – Samedov, Pasalic, Glushakov, Fernando, Kombarov – Promes, Luiz Adriano
Manager: Massimo Carrera
Rico – Corchia, Lenglet, Escudero, Carole – Banega, Krohn-Dehli – Correa, Nolito, Navas – Ben Yedder
Manager Eduardo Berizzo
Andrew Flint is an English freelance football writer living in Tyumen, Western Siberia, with his wife and two daughters. He has featured on These Football Times, Russian Football News, Four Four Two and Sovetski Sport, mostly focusing on full-length articles about derbies, youth development and the game in Russia. Due to his love for FC Tyumen, he is particularly interested in lower league Russian football and is looking to establish himself in time for the 2018 World Cup. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMijFlint.