Andrew Flint –
Krasnodar vs Trabzonspor – Thursday, November 7, 17:55 GMT/18:55 CET – Stadion Krasnodar, Russia
From the heights of toppling Porto away to ending matchday two with two heavy defeats in the Europa League, Krasnodar were on the verge of seeing their continental dreams shattered. The lessons of previous campaigns seemed to have been ignored as they simply failed to hold together their composure in Switzerland against Basel, while the intensity of their performance at home to Getafe was alarmingly lacking. Murad Musaev has come under criticism for his overly conservative approach in European games when his side have been under pressure; when he played the experienced but uninventive centre-back Jon Gudni Fjólusson as a holding midfielder it signalled a caution-first mentality when they should have been holding the Spanish side to the floor.
It certainly isn’t time to throw in the towel just yet though. In the Russian Premier League they may have drawn their last three matches but are still awaiting the full fitness of some key players like Wanderson, Viktor Claesson, Yuriy Gazinskiy and Remy Cabella, all of whom would be perfect for staging a more proactive style of play. Ivan Ignatyev has started one game since August and has not hit his stride yet; when he does, there is a mobile option to offer some variation to the in-form physicality of Marcus Berg. In short, Musaev has options.
The next two Europa League fixtures are of course crucial in revealing Krasnodar’s priorities, and in dictating the season as a whole. Anything other than two home wins against Trabzonspor and then Basel will leave Krasnodar’s hopes of escaping the group stages remote, given that they must finish by traveling to the notoriously defensive Getafe in the final round of matches. The tight nature of the domestic standings will play a part too. With only four more league games until March—and two of them coming against top-five rivals—they can ill afford to enter the winter break trailing the Champions League places. One assumes they will be confident of overcoming a side they beat away from home recently; assumption is a dangerous thing though.
For Trabzonspor their trip to the Caucasus is even more critical. With just a single point to their name, anything but a full three points will almost certainly mathematically leave them out of the running to qualify for the knockouts. They have progressed both times from their previous two Europa League group-stage campaigns only to be outclassed by Italian opposition. Unless they get a result this week they will have to rely entirely on other results to have even a slither of a chance of making it three successful group stages. With injuries mounting up and a surprise home defeat in the league, there is little positivity to be drawn from their prospects.
After the 1-0 reverse to Göztepe last weekend however, manager Unal Karaman remained upbeat. “I’m pleased with the performance of my players. Despite the missing players, we did our best. We will recover, the Krasnodar match will be a new beginning for us.” Pre-match soundbites are rarely revealing beyond the regular platitudes of presenting a united front, although resisting the possible temptation to focus on results instead of the performance might indicate that Karaman is sanguine about the task ahead of his players in Krasnodar. It is not a deal-breaker to load further fixtures onto their schedule in the spring in the way that it is for their hosts after all.
For all the disruption to the playing squad, there are still six players who have been ever-present for Trabzonspor in the league. If they have done their homework on Krasnodar they will know that there is an uncertainty to exploit if they are organised even without the likes of John Obi Mikel, Daniel Sturridge, Ogenyi Onazi and Abdülkadir Ömür. Krasnodar have conceded first in three of their last four competitive games either side of the 2-0 win in Turkey, including to understrength strugglers Orenburg and needing two added-time goals to rescue a point against Rostov. Pick their battles correctly and they could spring a shock; the question is whether they even want to given the scale of their task to qualify.
Krasnodar vs Trabzonspor – Players to watch
Manuel Fernandes #99 – Krasnodar
Since his move down south from the capital where he won the Russian Premier League title with Lokomotiv Moscow Fernandes has taken a while to regain his match fitness. He has now started the last two league games and marked his first start with a typically instinctive finish to rescue a point at home to Orenburg. He has experience of Turkish sides of course after spending a few seasons with Besiktas, and while he is unlikely to harbour any great desire to prove at this point at this late stage of his career his intelligence on the ball will be crucial in helping Krasnodar resurrect their Europa League campaign. Shapi Suleymanov has been carefully managed by the club and will almost certainly feature later in the game; Fernandes will control proceedings beforehand to lay the platform.
Anthony Nwakaeme #9 – Trabzonspor
The 30-year-old Nigerian winger offers a real threat out wide for Trabzonspor that must be watched carefully if Krasnodar are to avoid coming unstuck. One slight downfall for the Russian side in some European games is the amount of space they have afforded to fast counter-attacking sides, especially out wide, and that is where Nwakaeme excels. Trabzonspor have not been overrun for the majority of their three group-stage games so far despite only picking up one point so far so it would be a major mistake to write them off just on the basis of their position at the foot of the table. Nwakueme’s strength, pace and confidence carrying the ball offers an ideal outlet for quick breakways that will most likely characterise the Turkish side’s approach to the game.
Krasnodar vs Trabzonspor – Match stats
- Krasnodar haven’t won any of their last five European home games (D2, L3)
- They are unbeaten in five matches against Turkish opposition (W4, D1)
- Trabzonspor haven’t scored in either of their two visits to Russia
- Trabzonspor have only twice away from home in this competition in seven games (W3, D2, L2), but both defeats have come in their last two trips.
Futbolgrad network prediction: Krasnodar vs Trabzonspor – 2-0
Krasnodar vs Trabzonspor – Possible lineups
Safonov – Petrov, Spajić, Martynovich, Ramírez – Vilhenna, Olsson, Utkin – Suleymanov, Berg, Fernandes
Manager: Murad Musaev
Cakir – Pereira, Hosseini, Türkmen, Novak – Erdogan, Canbaz, Sosa – Sari, Sörloth, Nwakaeme
Manager: Unal Karaman
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.