Andrew Flint –
Krasnodar vs Basel – Thursday, November 28, 15:50 GMT/16:50 CET – Stadion Krasnodar, Krasnodar – Russia
Sergey Galitskiy likes nothing more nowadays than to stroll through the lavish campus his empire has built, casting a quiet eye over the latest training session from the sidelines. With less to distract his focus after the multi-billion dollar sale of his majority holding of Magnit, his gaze can soak in the studious minds being put through their paces. It is a strange situation to witness – a Russian club without pressures of local government or even industry – but perhaps it is even stranger given how withdrawn from the public eye their figurehead is. A flicker of Spartak Moscow-related news and Leonid Fedun’s thoughts and quirks are splashed about for all to see. Down in Krasnodar however, things are done differently.
The lavish gardens and immaculately trimmed flowerbeds that swallow Russia’s most prestigious academy are more akin to a zen garden of peace that the simmering hotbed of footballing talent, or the cacophonous Colosseum at their centre. The battle for European progress has been a tricky one for Krasnodar. When Basel make their way through the serene surroundings to the impressive stadium Galitskiy built, they will do so knowing they are the ones in control and not their hosts. The record 5-0 humbling in Switzerland at the start of the campaign was a stark reminder that while Krasnodar may have dramatically beaten the former European champions in the Champions League weeks earlier, they still have a lot to learn about negotiating campaigns across the continent.
The focus was always on the development of youth from across the whole of Krasnodar krai from the moment this grand project was conceived, but that doesn’t mean experience has been discarded. Manuel Fernandes’ arrival offers another option to offset the absences that have plagued the club in this first part of the season for example, and with Ari and Marcus Berg offering alternatives to the occasionally hot-headed talent Ivan Ignatyev rotation is possible without diminishing the quality on the pitch. The strategy of the club involves intelligence and no passengers when it comes to recruitment and development – but at some point that must translate into results, especially in Europe.
Basel have had to battle with their own demons of sorts over the last 18 months or so. Wresting back control of the Swiss Super League from new powerhouses Young Boys after so long as the virtually undisputed leaders of their domestic scene is proving a tall order. Only one win in their last four league games has seen them drop four points off the pace, with key figures like Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Ricky van Wolfswinkel and even new loan signing Ramires all suffering lengthy injuries. A so-far unbeaten group stage has assuaged fears of a wasted season though.
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Switzerland only has one place in the Champions League due to its low ranking in the UEFA club coefficient system. Even Cypriot and Scottish clubs are above them in the all-important list that grants nations their places in European competition, so perhaps the motivation lies in securing their longer-term prospects of making the premier tier of continental football. It is clutching at straws perhaps to create a reason for Basel to strain every sinew to get a result, but it can’t be discounted. Russian clubs, by contrast, have been rewarded for stronger performance in recent years by moving above Portugal and thus taking a third Champions League slot, but have since slipped behind again after a disastrous collective showing so far.
Already guaranteed passage through to the knockout stages thanks to their superior record against Getafe and the 5-0 thrashing of Krasnodar, there is little need for immediate urgency. “It is good that the pressure is reduced for the last two games,” said manager Marcel Koller after the last round of matches. As the ultras’ banner hung before the Getafe home game read, however, Basel are “Unentwägt Unterwägs”; the key to their success so far in this campaign, epitomised no more so than by the clinical ruthlessness of the hammering of Krasnodar, has been the attitude of never being beaten.
Krasnodar vs Basel – Players to Watch
Marcus Berg #33 – Krasnodar
After arriving from the Middle East in what had seemed to be a comfortable closing phase to an experienced career, Marcus Berg initially struggle to adapt to the different pace and style of football in Russia. Cumbersome and lacking in movement, his selection ahead of the young prospect Ivan Ignatyve or assimilated Russian citizen Ari was heavily questioned. The reasoning behind recruiting the Swedish international is becoming clearer and more justified in recent weeks, however. Reaching double figures in each of his last six league campaigns is one way of remembering the innate instinct the best goalscorers. Another is to see the selfless manner in which Berg has lead the line – a role he will have to play if called upon to beat Basel.
Kemal Ademi #99 – Basel
Domestically there is no question who the dangerman is for the Swiss giants. German-born forward Kemal Ademi is an obvious target from a physical standpoint, but his 1.98m frame offer far more than just the blunt facets one might assume. Yes, his strength to hold off challenges allows his teammates to break upfield at speed, but it his fighting spirit that certainly sets a tone. Ademi needs to improve his impact in European competition though, having struggled to make as much impression in three goalless appearances this campaign. Basel know that they have already qualified for the knockouts but will look to their frontman to hold the side together on the front foot.
Krasnodar vs Basel – Match Stats
- Although Krasnodar have won their last two games in this group, their encounter with basel on matchday one was their heaviest European defeat
- Before beating Trabzonspor in their last Europa League match on home soil, Krasnodar had failed to win in their previous five Europa League home games
- They are unbeaten in their last eight matches in all competitions, but have just one clean sheet in the last nine
- Basel failed to make a group stage last season for the first time in 15 years
- They are unbeaten in their last six group-stage games outside Switzerland (W4, D2)
- Basel have only won twice in their last six Europa league away games
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Krasnodar vs Basel – 1-1
Krasnodar vs Basel – Possible Lineups
Safonov – Petrov, Spajić, Martynovich, Ramírez – Vilhenna, Kaio, Olsson – Suleymanov, Berg, Fernandes
Manager: Murad Musaev
Omlin – Widmer, Cömert, Alderete, Petretta – Xhaka, Frei – Bua, Zuffi, Stocker – Ademi
Manager: Marcel Koller
Andrew Flint is an English freelance football writer living in Tyumen, Western Siberia, with his wife and two daughters. He has featured on These Football Times, Russian Football News, Four Four Two and Sovetski Sport, mostly focusing on full-length articles about derbies, youth development and the game in Russia. Due to his love for FC Tyumen, he is particularly interested in lower league Russian football and is looking to establish himself in time for the 2018 World Cup. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMijFlint.