Spartak Moscow vs Rangers – Thursday, November 8, 17:55GMT/18:55CET – Stadion Spartak, Moscow, Russia
There is congestion in the UEFA Europa League Group G standings at the halfway point. Just three points separating the four teams in the group and no decision will be made on the final standings when Spartak face Rangers on matchday four. But after holding Rangers to a 0-0 draw in Glasgow, Spartak will be eager to move alongside them in the table by securing a first win and in the process ending their visitors’ unbeaten record in Europe under new manager Steven Gerrard.
To do that, however, Spartak will have to improve on their results, which have gone from bad to worse since owner Leonid Fedun decided to fire head coach Massimo Carrera ahead of the Rangers game two weeks ago. Since that 0-0 draw at Ibrox Spartak managed a 1-1 draw away at Rubin, followed by a 1-0 victory against Anzhi Makhachkala, in which large parts of the fanbase opted to boycott the club, and then lost 1-2 to Yekaterinburg based Ural at home at Stadion Spartak.
As a result, Spartak remain in sixth place in the Russian Premier Liga standings thanks only to the inconsistency of the teams around them. With 19 points from 13 games, Spartak also remain within a touching distance of the Champions League spots, third-placed Krasnodar are on 23 points. Carrera, however, was fired to preserve Spartak’s title ambitions this season but with Zenit sitting in first place with 31 points, it seems impossible to imagine that Spartak, or anyone else, could close the gap to Russia’s richest club.
With that in mind, Spartak fans rightfully ask the question on what has been the point of firing Carrera in the first place. The Italian was always honest about the fact that this would be a transition year for the club and ultimately was not fired because of results on the pitch, but because of the way his team was playing. Undeniably Spartak have not played great football, but Carrera managed to integrate the likes Mikhail Ignatov and Aleksandr Maksimenko in the first squad while at the same time having to compensate the departure of Quincy Promes, who left the club on the final day of the transfer window.
Now under Riancho, the results have not improved, and the performances have slipped even further, which makes it likely for Spartak to hire a new coach at some point. All of this is good news for Spartak’s Europa League opponent Rangers.
In truth, however, the Glasgow based side seemed to lack the creativity and speed to dismantle an insecure Spartak side at the Ibrox. Managed by former Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard the Ger certainly had the majority of the play but seemed clueless when they had the ball and pinned down Spartak.
Third in the Scottish Premiership behind Heart of Midlothian and eternal rivals Celtic Rangers will, therefore, have to improve on that first leg performance if they want to have any hope of a positive result in Russia. But a defeat to Aberdeen in the League Cup, a 1-1 draw to Kilmarnock and finally a 2-0 victory over St. Mirren suggests that Rangers will struggle in Russia. Spartak, in the meantime, will see the match as an opportunity to end the slump and finally produce positive headlines.
Spartak Moscow vs Rangers – Players to look out for:
Connor Goldson #6 – Rangers
The goalscorer in the home leg against Ufa in August has played every minute of all but one of Rangers’ fixtures so far this season and for a good reason. He has made 11 clearances already in two group games, thanks mainly to his height and mobility. In the opposition box, he is a threat from set pieces too. Given how Rangers have set up conservatively in Europe this season, his concentration levels will be vital for setting the base for the likes of Daniel Candeias and Alfredo Morelos to trouble Spartak.
Roman Eremenko #26 – Spartak Moscow
After a two-year doping ban, for consuming cocaine, Roman Eremenko is back in action. The 31-year-old Finnish national team midfielder controversially joined Spartak Moscow this summer even though CSKA kept him on the books following his suspension. Eremenko made his return to football against Yenisey Krasnoyarsk on matchday 10 and also featured in the defeat to Arsenal Tula. He then helped Spartak collect a point against Rangers two weeks ago and has mostly been utilised from the bench by interims coach Raul Riancho. But with Spartak struggling, the Spanish head coach might very well opt to start Eremenko against Rangers on Thursday.
Spartak Moscow vs Rangers – Match Stats
- There had been no UEFA competition matches between the clubs until matchday three.
- Rangers have a positive record against Russian opponents and have won four of their six away fixtures, losing just once – although two of those victories came outside Russia, in neutral Bochum and Warsaw.
- Rangers only draw came earlier this season, when they held FC Ufa 1-1 in the UEFA Europa League play-offs to secure a 2-1 aggregate success.
- The Ibrox club also have played in two European finals against Russian clubs, beating Dinamo Moskva in the 1972 European Cup Winners’ Cup but losing to Zenit in the 2008 UEFA Cup.
- Spartak’s four games against Scottish opposition before this season had all been against Rangers’ arch-rivals Celtic and they failed to win any of them (D2 L2), notably losing 2-3 at home in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League group stage.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Spartak Moscow vs Rangers – 2-1
Spartak Moscow vs Rangers – Lineups
Maksimenko – Kombarov, Bocchetti, Dzhikiya, Rasskazov – Eremenko, Fernando, Zobnin – Lomovitski, Ze Luis, Tashaev
Head Coach: Raul Riancho
McGregor – Flanagan, Goldson, Worrall, Tavernier – Jack, Coulibaly, Ejaria – Kent, Morelos, Candeias
Head Coach: Steven Gerrard
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.