Leaders Zenit face test against arch rivals Spartak
08 November 2013, 17:02
Moscow - Russian Premier League leaders Zenit St Petersburg will face a serious test of their title credentials on Sunday when they travel to face arch rivals Spartak Moscow.
Zenit, who are three points ahead of second-placed Lokomotiv Moscow and six points clear of third-placed Spartak, will probably be without two key midfielders in Belgian Axel Witsel and Portuguese Danny, after both suffered minor injuries in the 1-1 Champions League draw with Porto on Wednesday.
"Danny is unlikely to play against Spartak because of a muscle problem," explained Zenit's Italian coach Luciano Spalletti. "We will need to monitor the condition of Witsel before making a decision on whether he can play.
"Spartak are strong team and we will need to be at our very best to obtain a positive result against them. Besides, their players should be fresher because they are not playing in Europe."
However, Spartak, who lost 3-1 to capital rivals Lokomotiv last weekend, are handicapped by the fact that the match will be the first of two that they have to play behind closed doors as a punishment for the trouble that marred their recent Cup win away in Yaroslavl.
Spartak appealed against the league's decision but it was rejected both by the league and the Russian Football Union's disciplinary panel.
They also have selection concerns this weekend with defensive trio Sergei Bryzgalov, Italian Salvatore Bocchetti and Germany's Serdar Taschi all injured along with Brazilian midfielder Romulo.
Fresh from their derby win, Lokomotiv will be bidding to extend an eight-match unbeaten run in the league as they face struggling Tom Tomsk away in Siberia on Saturday.
Meanwhile, reigning champions CSKA Moscow, who are fourth, will look to boost their morale after the 5-2 defeat at the hands of Manchester City in the Champions League as they take on second-bottom Terek Grozny on Sunday.
"We made too many mistakes in defence in the match with (Manchester) City," said CSKA head coach Leonid Slutsky, who is without Alan Dzagoev just now.
"We must learn from that defeat to avoid repeating these mistakes in the future. And we shall start doing our homework right now."
Ural Yekaternburg v Rostov
Tomsk v Lokomotiv Moscow, Samara v Dynamo Moscow
Spartak Moscow v Zenit St Petersburg, Amkar Perm v Anzhi Makhachkala, CSKA Moscow v Terek Grozny, Rubin Kazan v FC Krasnodar, Kuban Krasnodar v Volga Nizhny Novgorod