Andy Shenk writes for Russian Football Newson his experience at Spartak Moscow’s final fixture at the Luzhniki Stadium…
Ever since I arrived in Moscow on Tuesday, the weather has been gorgeous. Balmy temperatures, sunshine and a cool breeze for five days now – not the type of good fortune generally associated with the Russian capital. When I left last December after a three-month stay, I think I’d seen a total of five days of sunshine during the autumn. Otherwise, rain, sleet, snow, chilling winds and grey skies overhead dragged on and on and on.
It was pretty foolish, then, of me to bring my jacket along to the Spartak – Krylia Sovetov match Friday night at Luzhniki Stadium. The ubiquitous babushkas may still have been bundled up in overcoats, but everyone else was dressed lightly, enjoying the May 9 holiday weekend.
After a 20-minute walk and 30-minute metro ride, I stepped out of the Sportivnaya metro station and into the crowds of Spartak fans that were meandering toward Luzhniki.
It shocks me every time I’m at a Russian football match, especially after I’ve been away for a while. The media whines and complains about the sport’s rotten fans – the constant swearing, alcohol, and violent clashes. And my disinterested Russian friends look shocked when I tell them I prefer to sit in the cheap seats with those horrid fan clubs. Continue reading →
Forget the talk about CSKA and Anzhi knocking Zenit from their perch atop Russian football. Despite an early-season slump which saw Zenit pick up five points from five matches between August 25 – September 29, brought on in part by squad turmoil after the flashy Hulk and Witsel signings, St. Petersburg’s flagship club will nip CSKA on the final day of the season thanks to a superior head-to-head record. That’s right, on May 26, Zenit and CSKA will finish with 66 points apiece, eight clear of Anzhi, but Zenit’s 3-1 away win to CSKA last August will be the difference as the men in sky blue celebrate a third-consecutive Premier League crown after wrapping up a win on Amkar Perm’s artificial pitch, 1,500 kilometers from home. Cue the confetti for Zenit’s Italian maestro Luciano Spalletti.
In the first Russian Premier League season to be contested on a fall-spring schedule, five different teams have topped the table, Zenit, Spartak, Terek, CSKA and Anzhi. Yet it is CSKA that have been the undisputed favorites since passing Anzhi on October 28 for 1st place in the league, a spot they’ve yet to relinquish. The Army Men’s balance is easily noted by league bests in goals scored (44) and goals conceded (19). Eight points up on Zenit with seven matches to play, CSKA’s 4th title in 11 years, and 1st since 2006, appeared wrapped up, but recent draws with rival Moscow clubs Spartak and Dinamo have allowed Zenit to close the gap to four points. With the late-season schedule favoring the challengers, CSKA fans are due for heartbreak. Continue reading →
Andy Shenk previews Russia’s trip to Northern Ireland, and the rise of a prodigious young talent in their domestic game…
Aleksandr Kokorin celebrated his 22nd birthday on March 19, just four days before suiting up for a World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland in Belfast. The Russian national team is ensconced at a golf resort outside of North London, a few kilometers from Arsenal’s training grounds, where they’ve been training since Monday.
The young Dinamo Moscow forward, who captained his club for the first time on Saturday evening during a 1-1 draw with Kuban, admitted this day was a bit different. “[My birthday’s] never come during camp…. This time I had a very strange birthday – with the national team, and in London, no less,” he told reporters after practice.
There certainly was no time to skip downtown, either, for post-workout drinks. Fabio Capello, who signed on with the Russian Football Union last July, has tightened the screws on a squad that earned its country’s ire at Euro 2012, both for their disappointing group stage exit and media reports of pampered footballers run wild in Warsaw. Continue reading →
The False Nine’s Russian correspondent Andy Shenk rounds up the action from Week 21 of the Russian Premier League…
When the Russian Premier League resumed play on March 8, following the winter break, the table was split into three distinct groups. Three clubs had risen above the pack, CSKA, Anzhi and Zenit, separated by five points in the chase for the title and one of two Champions League spots. Beginning with Kuban, Terek and Spartak, all clumped six points beneath 3rd-place Zenit, another seven teams enjoyed an excellent chance at snagging one of Russia’s four Europa League places, awarded to clubs 3rd-5th in the league as well as the winner of the Russian Cup. Continue reading →
Andy Shenk previews the Russian trio vying for progression to the quarterfinal stage of the Europa League…
Russian football’s winter break is finally over. Tonight, three clubs, Zenit, Anzhi and Rubin, continue their Europa League campaign in the round of 16. Tomorrow, the first two Russian league games in 2013 coincide with International Women’s Day: Volga Nizhny Novgorod – Kuban and Krasnodar – Amkar.
Last season, four clubs made it to the knockout phase of European football, but all four, Zenit, Rubin, CSKA and Lokomotiv, failed to advance past the first round and turned their attention to the home stretch of the 15-month 2011/2012 Russian Premier League season, which ran from March 2011 to May 2012 in order to implement the league’s fall-spring switch.
The scheduling change had one primary motive: improved performances from Russian clubs in European competition. Though Spartak and Zenit struggled last autumn in the Champions League group stage, the nation has bounced back nicely in the Europa League. Continue reading →
Andy Shenk looks at the three Russian clubs remaining in European competition…
Three Russian clubs remain from the six that entered European competition this season. Moscow clubs Dynamo, CSKA and Spartak are out, while Zenit, Rubin and Anzhi advance to the Europa League round of 32, which kicks off today across Europe.
In a nation eager to regain a top-six UEFA ranking, and the extra Champions League place that comes with it, the autumn European campaign was almost a complete disaster. Champions League failure and disappointing exits from CSKA and Dynamo in August left Anzhi and Rubin the only bright spots. Continue reading →
Think Russia has given up on all to do with the USSR? Think again. False Nine Russian correspondent, Andy Shenk, assesses the aims and implications of a proposed CIS league gaining popular support from leading Russian clubs and courting controversy with the RFS, most of Ukraine and a certain Sepp Blatter…
FIFA President Sepp Blatter dealt potential breakaway Russian clubs and their plans for a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) football league a harsh blow on January 20: “FIFA is not interested at all in this competition… Competitions between them [clubs] take place within the framework and under the control of the national associations, within the borders of their country and association. That is the fundamental principle.” Continue reading →