Spartak vs Zenit – Sunday 20:00 MT PT/ 19:00 CET Otkritie Arena – Moscow, Russia.
Spartak Moscow against Zenit Saint Petersburg could be one of the biggest games in European football this weekend. It is also the most anticipated game between Spartak and Zenit in years.
In many ways, Spartak against Zenit represents the rivalry between the city of Moscow, and the city of Saint Petersburg. But Spartak’s lack of success in recent years has meant that the CSKA Moscow against Zenit rivalry has supplanted the Spartak vs Zenit rivalry.
Traditionally Spartak has been the country’s most successful club—Spartak have won 21 national titles, nine since the fall of the Soviet Union. But at the same time, the Myaso have not won a national title since 2001.
While still one of the countries most supported clubs, depending on who you ask, Zenit and Spartak are usually the clubs mentioned when it comes to the teams with the most support. Spartak, however, have been extremely unsuccessful since the Russian oligarch, Leonid Fedun, bought the club in 2004.
Zenit together with CSKA Moscow, in the meantime, have taken the lion share of the available national trophies since the start of Spartak’s title drought in 2001. Zenit won the title four times in the last ten years, while CSKA have won the title six times since Spartak last lifted the trophy.
It is, therefore, no surprise that CSKA against Zenit was slowly but surely becoming the country’s biggest rivalry. This year, however, the equilibrium could be restored. Spartak have, after all, dominated the league, and are currently eight points ahead of both Zenit and CSKA Moscow in the standings.
As a result, Spartak have seen an average attendance of around 30,000 in the Otkritie Arena this season, and have also have experienced a resurgence in popularity across the country. In fact, one gets the sense in Russia that Spartak are returning to their rightful place at the top of the table.
The mastermind behind this success has been the Italian coach Massimo Carrera. Carrera has found a balance between appeasing Spartak’s emotional owner, Fedun, and also producing results without always being fashionable. In true Italian fashion, Spartak have become the master of grinding out results. The most recent example was against Orenburg were the team rallied late in order to carve out a 3-2 victory.
It is those kind of results that suggest that Spartak could indeed end the title drought this season. Before they can wrap it up, however, they have to face both Zenit and CSKA in the last eight matches of the season. Should Spartak lose both those games, the gap would go down to two points, and both clubs would have a fighting chance to squash Spartak’s title dreams.
A Spartak victory on the weekend, on the other hand, would more or less seal the title for them. Given Zenit’s recent lacklustre performances—Zenit fell out of the Europa League against Anderlecht and dropped points to CSKA, Perm, and Anzhi—under head coach Mircea Lucescu there is a high chance Spartak will do just that on Sunday night.
Spartak vs Zenit – Players to look out for:
Quincy Promes #10 – Spartak Moscow
Many are surprised that Quincy Promes is still in Moscow. Targeted by Liverpool over the winter break, the Dutch winger decided that he would stay in Moscow to help Spartak reach the Champions League. Some would have faltered under the constant media attention, and foreign clubs were offering in the region of €50 million for his services, but the Dutch winger has been in stellar form for Spartak in the second half of the season. The winger has scored three goals in four matches since the winter break, including a stunning winner against Orenburg on matchday 21.
Giuliano #7 – Zenit Saint Petersburg
Giuliano has been featured on this page, on several occasions. The Brazilian attacking forward has been successfully converted from playing on the wing to playing right behind natural forward Artem Dzyuba. On that position Giuliano combines all the attributes of a false nine with a playmaker. Giuliano’s playing style has been likened to Alex Teixeira, who was also formed into a false nine by Mircea Lucescu during his time at Shakhtar Donetsk. With seven goals and four assists in 20 games, Giuliano, who is also a Brazilian national team player, will be Zenit’s key player in Sunday’s match against Spartak.
Spartak vs Zenit – Match Stats
- This is the 44th meeting between the two clubs.
- Spartak’s record against Zenit is W15 D12 L16.
- Mircea Lucescu’s side won the first meeting between the two sides.
- Spartak have an eight point gap in the table over Zenit.
Prediction: Spartak vs Zenit 2-1
Rebrov – Kutepov, Dzhikiya, Tasci – Kombarov, Fernando, Glushakov, Zobnin – Luiz Adriano, Zé Luis, Promes
Coach: Massimo Carrera
Zenit Saint Petersburg
Lunev – Chernov, Novoseltsev, Ivanović, Tsallagov – Hernani, Garcia – Danny, Giuliano, Kokorin – Dzyuba
Coach: Mircea Lucescu