Verdict: Zenit win
Best Odds: 8/11
In what is a matchup between two of Russian football’s heavyweights on Wednesday evening, defending champions Zenit will welcome CSKA Moscow to the Saint-Petersburg Stadium in midweek.
Starting with the hosts, opening the new Russian Premier League campaign in their usual clinical fashion, it is no surprise that Zenit are a clear favourite to lift their third domestic crown on the bounce this season. Eventually holding a 15-point buffer at the top of the table and with another campaign of Champions League football on the horizon, the Lions have already lifted their first piece of silverware of the season as they secured a deserved 2-1 victory against Lokomotiv Moscow in the Super Cup earlier in the month. Also one of just three top-flight sides to boast a 100% record since opening the New Year, Head Coach Sergei Semak has seen his side land back-to-back 2-0 wins against Rotor Volgograd and Rostov on Premier League duties. Now in the midst of a stunning 21 matchup top-flight unbeaten run continuing on from last season, Zenit also have a pair of attacking talismans who spearheaded their title charge last year. With the duo already opening up their accounts, both Sardar Azmoun and Artem Dzyuba recorded 17 Premier League goals last season and shared the Golden Boot.
After being sent off against Rostov last time out, central defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy will miss Wednesday’s matchup due to suspension.
Elsewhere, appearing to have recovered from a back injury that kept him out over the weekend, attacking talisman Artem Dzyuba could be set for a return.
As for the visitors, after having to settle for a fourth-place finish last season after their inconsistencies at the back end of the campaign, CSKA Moscow missed out on a return to Champions League football. However, while Viktor Goncharenko’s side might have managed to secure just four wins over their final 13 Premier League appearances, the former BATE Borisov boss has seen his side make some real improvements this time around. Managing to pick up a deserved 2-1 victory against last year’s relegation scrappers Tambov on home soil over the weekend, the Horses have managed to open the new campaign with back-to-back wins. Despite midfielder Konstantin Kuchaev finding the net in their back-to-back victories against Tambov and Premier League returners Khimki, CSKA do hold what is a worrying record against the defending champions. Hit with a 4-0 drumming when they welcomed Zenit to the VEB Arena back in June, Wednesday’s guests have managed to pick up just a single point over their last four contests against the hosts.
After picking up a knock against Tambov last time out, playmaker Alan Dzagoev is set to miss Wednesday’s trip to the Saint-Petersburg Stadium.
Elsewhere, CSKA also look set to be without both midfielders Ilzat Akhmetov and Nikola Vlasic.
Key Factors to Consider
- When the two sides faced off last season, Zenit picked up a 4-0 romp when they made the trip to the VEB Arena back in June.
- Wednesday’s hosts have won their last four Premier League matchups on the bounce and are unbeaten in their last 21 contests.
- CSKA midfielder Konstantin Kuchaev has scored in back-to-back appearances since opening the new campaign.
- Four of CSKA’s last six matchups on the road have seen over 2.5 goals by the final whistle.
- Zenit have scored 15 goals in their last four Premier League contests on home soil.
While CSKA might have managed to open up the new campaign with back-to-back victories this season, Wednesday’s guests could be in for an overwhelming test at the Saint-Petersburg Stadium. With Zenit once again showing their usual strengths and already claiming the Super Cup title thanks to a 2-1 victory against Lokomotiv Moscow earlier in the month, the defending champions should also be boosted by their rampant record against iktor Goncharenko’s side. Picking up what was a 4-0 romp when they faced off against CSKA back in June, we’re backing another home victory for the Blues in midweek.
Verdict: Zenit win
Best Odds: 8/11
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