Andrew Flint –
Krasnodar vs Valencia – March, 14, 17:55 GMT/18:55 CET – Stadion Krasnodar, Krasnodar, Russia
Just when all hope seemed lost, Viktor Claesson arrived with another knockout goal to give Krasnodar a glimmer of hope last week in Valencia. In truth, the Spanish side had completely dominated the opening exchanges to the extent that the 2-0 scoreline almost flattered Murad Musaev’s men. Once again though, their patience was rewarded with a vital away goal that totally changes the complexion of the return leg in southern Russia.
The strangest aspect of this glimmer of hope is that it brings a welcome break from a domestic spring season that has already fallen ever so slightly flat. Heading into the final round of matches before the winter break Krasnodar were poised to take an unlikely lead in the Russian Premier League after hunting down Zenit St. Petersburg’s wounded, squad. Since returning, they have been knocked out of the Russian Cup and have dropped points in both league fixtures to fall five points behind a revitalised and reinforced Zenit.
An encouraging show of faith in his youth charges has imbued Musaev’s ever-burgeoning reputation with a commendable romantic sheen. The entire project has revolved around promoting the finest talent in the region into the first team, and already this Europa League campaign Matvey Safonov, Ivan Ignatyev and Magomed-Shapi Suleymanov have all featured significantly. Champions League is, of course, the ultimate end game, and with their still strong grip on a top-three league place, this will come very shortly. For now, though, they must win to stand a chance of going further than they’ve ever gone before in Europe.
Valencia have had a strange season, depending on which perspective you take. A quick glance at their league table numbers suggest they have trouble finishing off games, with a frustrating 15 games drawn. On the other hand, they hover menacingly just two points below fifth-placed Alaves – the automatic Europa League group-stage qualification spot – and have lost just four matches in the league campaign. They have also made it through to the Copa del Rey final.
Even in Europe, they have had a nuanced campaign. Despite beating both Manchester United and Young Boys at home and drawing against both away, they dropped out of the Champions League into this competition. They have only won four times away from home in the league, and just once in Europe, and yet remain unbeaten on the road in their last six matches in all competition, scoring 12 goals in those games.
Trying to predict which Valencia side will turn up then is a fool’s errand. The importance of progressing through the Europa League varies wildly from club to club, especially when their relative domestic standings involved different challenges. On paper, the teams above Valencia – Sevilla, Alaves and Getafe – are eminently beatable, especially the latter two. Edging past them will return them to the Champions League. Judging Valencia or Krasnodar on paper, however, is a pointless exercise.
Krasnodar vs Valencia – Players to Watch
Wanderson #7 – Krasnodar
Wanderson was moved to the centre of the three-man attack in Krasnodar’s 1-1 draw away against Spartak Moscow recently. The Brazilian is a product of both the Ajax academy but also of the Red Bull Salzburg development system. As a result, he can play several roles in Murad Musaev’s attacking formation. Fast and dynamic, on top of being adaptable, Wanderson could have a key role in the outcome of this tie.
Denis Cheryshev #11 – Valencia
Despite never having played club football in Russia, Denis Cheryshev will return to his home country this week. The Nizhny Novgorod native was one of the emerging stars at the 2018 FIFA World Cup last summer, where he scored four goals in five games for the Sbornaya. Performances at the tournament earned the former Real Madrid academy player a loan move to Valencia last summer. Cheryshev has become an important first-team member, playing 21 La Liga games, registering two goals and two assists this season.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Krasnodar vs Valencia – 1-0
Krasnodar vs Valencia – Match Stats
- Krasnodar faced Valencia’s compatriots Sevilla in this season’s group stages, winning 2-1 at home
- Krasnodar are unbeaten in their last six home European games, the last defeat also coming against Spanish opposition in the Europa League knockout stages
- They have only won one of their three European knockout ties in which they lost the first leg away from home, and yet again it also came against Spanish opponents (Real Sociedad four seasons ago.
- This is Valencia’s fifth Europa League round-of-16 knockout appearance, a tournament record alongside Zenit and Benfica
- Of the 23 total occasions when Valencia have won the first leg of a UEFA competition at home, they have gone through in 21 of them
- Of their last five Europa League fixtures outside Spain, they have won four with clean sheets
Krasnodar vs Valencia – Possible Lineups
Sinitsin – Petrov, Fjolusson, Spajic, Ramirez – Pereyre, Gazinskiy, Olsson – Wanderson, Ari, Claesson
Head coach: Murad Musaev
Neto – Piccini, Gabriel Paulista, Diakhaby, Lato – Guedes, Coquelin, Wass, Cheryshev – Rodrigo, Gameiro
Head coach: Marcelino
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.