Champions CSKA aim to sign off in style
Newly-crowned champions CSKA Moscow will have one eye on next weekend’s Russian Cup final when they round off their league campaign at Rostov on Sunday.
The Red Army side added a fourth Russian title to seven Soviet titles after a goalless draw with Kuban Krasnodar a week ago and coach Leonid Slutsky has decided to rotate his squad ahead of the Cup final in Grozny on June 1.
Despite missing midfielders Zoran Tocis, Aleksandr Cauna and Mario Fernandez due to injury, with Ivory Coast marksman Seydou Doumbia also out with muscle pain, Slutsky has decided to give Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda the afternoon off.
“We decided to give Honda some rest as we prepare him for the cup final. We also hope that Doumbia will be able to play at Grozny,” Slutsky said in a recent interview.
“Fernandez, who suffered a knee injury, will miss the cup final while the return of Cauna, who is suffering nerve inflammation, is hard to predict.”
Although the top three positions are already decided, with last year’s champions Zenit St Petersburg guaranteed to finish second and big-spenders Anzhi Makhachkala third, other clubs will battle for places in the next season’s Europa League.
Russia’s most decorated side Spartak Moscow, Kuban Krasnodar, Dynamo Moscow, Rubin Kazan and Terek Grozny all have a chances to win the right to represent Russia in Europe next season.
Spartak and Kuban are the favourites in this race, while Dynamo Moscow will be without star players Alexander Kokorin and Balazs Dzsudzsak, who were both handed respective seven and four-match bans for participation in a mass brawl in Dynamo’s previous match at Vladikavkaz.
Spartak manager Valery Karpin said he has urged players to avoid any possibility of underestimating Alania Vladikavkaz as they seek a pass into the Europa League.
“We just need to earn three points in the match with Alania,” Karpin said.
“But we shall take them [Alania] seriously and play at our best to obtain these points. Earlier this season we slipped up in matches against clear underdogs Saransk and Rostov. We should never repeat these mistakes in order to win the right to play in Europe next season.”
The league’s underdogs Saransk and 1995 champions Alania have already been relegated but the 13th and 14th placed finishers face play-offs for the right to stay in the Premier League.
Amkar Perm, Volga Nizhny Novgorod, Samara and Rostov all desperately need points to avoid two-leg clashes with the third and fourth-placed teams from the first division.