Russian clubs have finished fighting in the group stages of European competitions. None of the domestic teams were able to make it to the spring round of the Champions League or Europa League. Moreover, only Zenit and Krasnodar before the last round had some chances to continue the football campaign. While Lokomotiv and CSKA dropped all hopes for a positive outcome even after the third round of the Champions League and LE, respectively. Such a result turned out to be an anti-record for the clubs of the Russian Premier League for the first time in 18 years. The last time something similar happened was back in 2001. This exodus has put Portugal ahead of Russia in the UEFA odds table and could have a serious impact on the number of representative teams in the UEFA Premier League from the 2021/22 season. Football weekly tried to figure out
Zenit (group stage, 4th place)
Lokomotiv (group stage 4th place)
Krasnodar (eliminated in the 4th qualifying round)
Few people believed in the success of the “railroad workers” even from the stage of the draw in Monaco. The Loko group was perhaps the least fortunate among all the representatives of the Russian Premier League. More high-status European clubs would not want to join the same quartet with Atletico and Juventus, which had recently become finalists of the Champions League. Nevertheless, such a lot could have had a positive effect on the fate of Muscovites at the group stage.
On the one hand, practically no one is seriously counting on you (at best, the fight for the third place and the Europa League). However, if you look at it from a slightly different angle, then quite often such disbelief sometimes forces outsiders, unexpectedly for many, to act at the limit of their own capabilities. Just remember the case with the Cypriot “Apoel”, who managed to reach the Champions League quarterfinals in the 2011/12 season. Or last year’s success of Ajax Amsterdam, which on its way confidently dealt with Real Madrid and Juventus.
However, for Loko everything turned out much more mundane. As in the previous season, Yuri Semin’s team managed to score points in the only match of the group stage, unexpectedly beating Bayer from the road in the first round. If last season’s home victory over Galatasaray in Moscow with a score of 2: 0 did not decide anything in the standings, then the starting three points in the match against Aspirin made it possible to count at least for imposing a fight on the same Germans for the LE. But everything turned out a little differently.
Loko’s problems, which led to two consecutive defeats before the winter break (1: 2 – Dynamo and 0: 4 – Arsenal), affected the performance of the capital club in the Champions League. It is not the first year that the “railroad workers” have been facing the lack of a sharp striker who can independently create chances for themselves at someone else’s goalkeeper’s room. Senegalese striker Dame N’Doye with 13 goals in the 2013/14 season was the last scoring forward to delight fans at Cherkizovo. After his departure to England, the Moscow club never found an adequate replacement for him.
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Neither Smolov, who never managed to adapt to Loko’s counterattacking manner, nor Eder, who spent most of his time in isolation from the Muscovites’ midline, became the duo of strikers that was so necessary for the red-greens to perform successfully in Champions League. If we add to this factor the critical shortage of players on the bench, we get the main reason why Lokomotiv did not score a single point in the confrontation with Juventus or Atletico Madrid.
When the opponent can release such players as Paulo Dybalu or Douglas Costa from the bench at the end of the meeting, and your team can strengthen the game, except that Kolomeytsev, you cannot count on the optimal outcome in the confrontation with the European giants.
Loko played the whole tournament with one squad. In the case when he lost one or two main players, he did not know who to replace them. Dmitry Barinov and Anton Miranchuk did not play in the last round at Wando Metropolitano Madrid. As a result, the guests in the position of the central midfielder in a pair with Krykhovyak went to the nominal centerdef Murilo. As a result, most of the time, Muscovites could not even enter someone else’s half of the field, over and over again allowing Koke or Party to pass the center of the field without hindrance.
Another factor that has recently been influencing Loko’s game is the age factor. This season, this is especially true of the defensive line, where Vedran Chorluka and Vladislav Ignatiev hold key positions. Horvath has a powerful vision of the field, can read an episode several moves ahead, but he lacks speed sorely. Hence the unforced yellow cards against the more mobile forwards. If it were not for the offside position of Alvaro Morata in the game with Atlético, then in the confrontation with the Spaniard, the referee could well have put the third penalty against Lokomotiv.
Ignatiev qualitatively connects to the attacks, but he began to be late at times more often with the return to his half of the field with quick counter-attacks of opponents. In the game with Dynamo at RZD-Arena, his attacking actions first led to a penalty kick against Anton Shunin. But already at the very beginning of the second half, he brought a penalty kick to Kochenkov’s goal, playing with his hand in the penalty area after Yusupov’s shot. Or in the away game against Ufa, where Vladislav’s counter-attack came from Vladislav’s flank, which eventually led to a penalty kick.
In the pgslot games against Juve, the lack of rotation was a key factor behind the two defeats. In the meetings with Atlético, she also pointed out the incredible difference in team movements, especially in the second half, when the strength of the players in the starting lineup of Muscovites began to decline noticeably. And the fact that before the winter break, Loko’s newcomer Murilo, being a nominal defender, pgslot played in the center of the field, only shows that making an adequate replacement for injured players (in this case Barinov) with an acute shortage of players on the bench is rather an impossible task.
While for Lokomotiv the task of reaching the next stage of the tournament looked almost impossible, for Zenit the situation with the passage to the Champions League playoffs initially seemed more realistic. Group G, which included Semak’s team together with Lyon, RB and Benfica, somewhat reminded the Loko quartet of last year. All teams seem to be equal with each other, except perhaps Leipzig. But the “blue-white-blue” were obliged to fight for the second line with the French and Portuguese.
The start of the campaign among the Petersburgers turned out to be extremely successful. The Blue-White-Blues scored an important point in the away match with the Weavers and achieved a confident victory in the game at Gazprom-Arena with the Eagles. But the entrance to RB in a two-legged duo confrontation confused all the plans of the team of Sergei Semak. It was the meeting with the German club that sowed the first doubts among Russian fans about the successful outcome of the struggle for the spring stage of the Champions League.
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The team of the young revolutionary in coaching, Julian Nagelsmann, showed that in a key factor that showed the final difference in the level of the two clubs, the leader of the Russian Premier League was out of work. The lead play especially affected the final result in the away game in St. Petersburg, where Forsberg and Zabitzer were one step ahead in almost every episode at the hosts’ goal. The second goal against Kerzhakov, which was scored by the Austrian striker, demonstrated not the most agile game of Zenit at their own goal.
As in the case with Ignatiev and Chorluka at Loko, Zenit’s center of defense looked heavy throughout the entire group stage. In the episode with the Zabitzer goal, the Swede Emil Forsberg gave a cutting pass to his partner, who in one move removed Rakitskiy from the path and sent the ball into the goal. This is the case when the Ukrainian defender looked more confident just outside the goal, where Dziuba and Azmun were enough without him. And directly in his role, he often lagged in the company with Ivanovich for the interactions of Werner and Poulsen.
But even after losing both key matches against RB with a total difference of 1: 4, the Petersburgers still had good chances until the last round against Benfica at Estadio da Luz. Taking into account the home victory with a score of 3: 1, Zenit simply needed not to lose in Lisbon with a difference of two or more goals. However, it was the disastrous departure to Portugal (0: 3), coupled with the home game against Leipzig (0: 2), that predetermined the first in ten years that the “blue-white-blue” did not fall into the spring stage of European competition.
If we compare the play of both Russian clubs in the Champions League, we can see one curious detail in the matches between Zenit and Lokomotiv. Having spent the first half at RZD-Arena against Bayer in the fifth round of the Champions League, the railroad workers entered the field as demoralized as possible after the break. The Germans crushed the defense of the “railroad workers” with a movement almost in the very first attack, having scored a goal already in the 49th minute. The same tendency manifested itself in Portugal, where Zenit conceded even faster, already on the 46th.
In the second half of the meeting, Sergei Semak’s team began to clearly not keep up with the actions of Pizzi or Servi. What did Semin and Semak say during the breaks of the matches against Bayer and Benfica, that after these words the teams entered the field and seemed like complete extras? Nevertheless, Zenit played one of the worst games of this season in a decisive match for themselves. The same happened with Loko in the game against Bayer, where during the entire match the hosts managed to create only one single chance at the goal of Lukasz Hradecki.
Zenit failed to secure even the semblance of pressure on Benfica’s goal. On the contrary, at the beginning of the second half, Russian fans realized that this evening would probably be the last for their team in the Champions League. Santos’ unforgivable mistake on the 56th minute, who simply did not feel the direction of the ball after the flank serve, became the personification of the inglorious campaign of the “blue-white-blue” this fall.
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If Loko lost the fight for reaching the playoffs in advance, getting into the “group of death” in the quartet of teams that have played four times in the Champions League finals over the past ten years, then in the case of Zenit, the club’s players could well have counted on for a more successful performance in the main European Cup of the Old World.
It is also paradoxical that in the decisive match for reaching the playoffs, the leader of the RPL with a ten-point margin in front of the closest pursuer lost outright to the Portuguese team, whose exit from the group was put, perhaps, by the most desperate fans. It is not surprising that in the UEFA club rankings we have lost for a long time the sixth line, which gives the right to participate in the Champions League for three teams at once. Portugal, thanks to the maximum dedication of its clubs, deserves this to a greater extent.
CSKA (group stage, 4th place)
Krasnodar (group stage 3rd place)
Spartak (eliminated in the 4th qualifying round)
Arsenal Tula (eliminated in the 2nd qualifying round)
For the first time in their history, the bulls advanced to the Champions League, finishing third in the Russian championship last year. However, the team of Sergey Matveev was unable to qualify for the group stage of the tournament. If with Porto the Krasnodar players were incredibly able to beat the dragons away (3: 2) and advance to the next round, then with Olympiacos they simply did not have enough strength and emotions. The players spent everything on the Portuguese club. Therefore, we received a good slap in the face from the Greeks at home (0: 4).
The fate of Krasnodar in the LE group reminded the fans of the Lokomotiv group. Unlike the army, the bulls were unlucky with the group. Well-prepared Getafe and having extensive experience in the Champions League, Basel awaited Sergei Matveyev’s team in the quartet. The only passing option was Trabzonspor, which knocked out Sparta and AEK in qualifying, which scored 2 unanswered goals to the Turks in the last away match.
But there were still hopes, because Krasnodar had already played in the Europa League for many years, where they reached the playoffs. However, the bulls started the tournament just disgusting – 0: 5 from Basel. Many experts referred to preparations for the match with the closest competitor for the second place in the RPL CSKA. You can also note all the same emotions. During the first match in the LE, the footballers of the Krasnodar club didn’t seem to want to play. In addition, Krasnodar started playing on 3 fronts. Note that after the defeat in Switzerland followed by losses in the RPL and the Russian Cup – CSKA (3: 2), Nizhny Novgorod (0: 1).
This made the team of Sergey Matveyev cheer up, but the result in the championship only improved. In the second round of the Europa League, the bulls lost at home to Getafe – 1: 2. Of course, the absence of injured Cabella and Klasson also affected, because the “bulls” at first could not create something near the gates of the Spanish club. But then Ari began to gain form, who scored a goal in that meeting.
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As expected, after that Krasnodar won two victories in a face-to-face confrontation with Trabzonspor. The Turks generally concentrated on fighting in the domestic championship, so they took the second squad to the away game. Already in these matches Fernandes revealed himself. The Portuguese scored a goal and a pass. Also striker Ari was gaining his form.
Two victories brought the bulls back to the playoffs. On the rise, with difficulty, Krasnodar beat Basel (1: 0). But at the end of the meeting, Ari was sent off, who was so lacking in the last match of Krasnodar in the EL. The Russian club needed only a victory, but the absence of the Brazilian buried the bulls’ chances in Spain. Besides, in the championship before that there were games with competitors for the top five, all matches ended in a draw (with Rostov (2: 2), with Lokomotiv (1: 1), with CSKA (1: 1). “I just ate, and failed to create something in a game. The Krasnodar club was the last of the European cups, which upset the whole of Russia.
As a result, the bulls were prevented by injuries of key players, Ari’s unnecessary card before the final match and a short bench.
Prior to this season, CSKA had reached the Champions League group stage for 6 consecutive years. Therefore, at the draw in LE, the Moscow club was in the first basket, which made it possible to hope for an easy group. This is what happened: “Ludogorets”, “Ferencvaros” and “Espanyol”. It would seem that there will definitely not be any difficulties here, but it turned out to be not so simple.
In recent years CSKA does not have enough players, the Red-Blues’ bench is too short. Unlike Krasnodar, the army team got into the LE directly, they did not have to waste their energy in qualifying. However, the result of the first match reminded the game of Krasnodar. The defeat from “Ludogorets” (1: 5) at a party was a reason for thought. Disgusting implementation, no one to strengthen, the players went to the second half too relaxed, for which they received 3 unanswered goals in 7 minutes. Large breaks in the lines allowed the Bulgarians to bring the score to a large one.
Many still thought that this had such an impact on the preparation for the game with Krasnodar (3: 2), but later CSKA lost at home to Espanyol (0: 2). In the first half, as it was in almost all matches, the army team had an advantage, but in the second, fatigue again poured out. Of course, the Moscow club also played on 3 fronts, but achieved victory in the Cup. True, after the defeat against the Spaniards, the results of CSKA worsened in the championship.
Again without victory. CSKA drew with Ludogorets and will definitely not make it to the Europa League playoffs
The game with the Hungarian “Ferencvaros” gave the fans hope, but in vain. In Moscow, CSKA lost 1: 0. Possessing an advantage again in the first half, the Red-Blues conceded at the end of the game. Lack of rotation is usual for CSKA, but here’s the implementation. In the match with the Hungarians, the players of the Moscow club inflicted 20 shots on the opponent’s goal, 4 of which only hit the target, but failed to distinguish themselves. CSKA showed the worst statistics – 1 goal scored in 3 matches.
The same situation was in the remaining three meetings. CSKA again had many chances against Ferencváros in Hungary, but the game ended in a draw (0: 0), burying the chances of reaching the playoffs. We managed to score with difficulty in the home match against Ludogorets (1: 1). Only after a conceded ball! The head coach of the Muscovites changed to a 4 + 2 + 3 + 1 scheme. A goal followed almost immediately. Note that the return of the injured Dzagoev added a lot of benefit.
In the final match of the group stage against Espanyol, the army team won the long-awaited victory (1: 0). But some kind of circus was going on in Spain. There was simply no implementation. It was as if the players did not want to score, sometimes it was simply impossible to understand how the ball did not end up in Espanyol’s goal. Take, for example, Kuchaev’s and Chalov’s (2 in 1) exit with the goalkeeper, where Konstantin could not make a regular pass, but simply fired higher than Fedor. Nevertheless, Vlašić, who is the most productive player of CSKA in the current season, brought victory.
Total: the lack of rotation and the disgusting implementation of the attack did not allow the army team to reach the playoffs of the Europa League.