Zenit vs Lokomotiv Moscow – Sunday, September 23, 14:30 BST/15:30 CEST/16:30 MSK – Krestovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg, Russia
It has been a fantastic start to the new Russian Premier Liga season for Zenit St. Petersburg under new head coach Sergey Semak. Russia’s richest club has started the season with six wins and one draw and are now five points ahead of second and third placed Rostov and Spartak.
At the same time, it is still too early to start putting the champagne in the cooler for Zenit. The Gazprom-owned club started with an identical record last season under former head coach Roberto Mancini. It was not until matchday 13 that Zenit suffered their first defeat last year.
What followed was a collapse of epic proportions in which Zenit won just six games from matchday 14 to 30. As a result, Zenit missed out on Champions League football for the second season in a row.
Hence, it is to praise Semak just yet early. But at the same time, there is a sense that under Semak Zenit are more stable than last season. The 42-year-old has brought stability to a side that was in flux for several transfer windows and also seems to have found a balance between the many high profile foreigners and the Russian national team players.
It is a sense of stability that is completely lacking over at Lokomotiv at the moment. Travelling to Istanbul to face Galatasaray mid-week the Railwaymen were utterly dismantled in a 3-0 defeat to the Turkish side.
A surprising result, given the strong defensive shape Lokomotiv displayed last season. The Railwaymen did not always play attractive football during their championship season but walked away with the title because they were consistent.
Lokomotiv together with Zenit conceded the least amount of goals last season and even scored five goals less than Zenit (41) last season. The fast majority of Loko’s wins were close 1-0 victories with the Moscow-based club playing minimalist football that required an enormous amount of discipline from the players.
Last season Semin managed to install that discipline. The 71-year-old has, however, somewhat seen the dressing room slip away despite bringing in marquee players like Grzegorz Krychowiak, Benedikt Höwedes and Fedor Smolov. Tenth in the table Loko, however, scored just five goals and conceded five while collecting just nine points in seven games.
The Railwaymen still play minimalist football but games that they would have won last season ended in either draws or even defeats this year around. Zenit, on the other hand, have been solid this year and are favourites to collect the three points on Sunday.
Zenit vs Lokomotiv Moscow – Players to look out for:
Robert Mak #20 – Zenit
Back from a season out on loan at PAOK Robert Mak has been excellent under Semak this season. The 27-year-old Slovakian winger featured in all six of Zenit’s RPL games this season. Although still without a league goal his blistering speed makes him a weapon in Zenit’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Furthermore, in Europe Mak has been on fire scoring three goals in four Europa League matches (including qualifiers).
Benedikt Höwedes #5 – Lokomotiv Moscow
Benedikt Höwedes is still being integrated by Semin. On Wednesday he started against Galatasaray but like the rest of the squad had a bit of a nightmare. Brought in from Schalke this summer the 30-year-old German World Cup winner, however, is supposed to bring the experience to stabilise Lokomotiv. Against Zenit he will face a tough challenge and Loko will have to have Höwedes at his best if they want to survive at the Krestovsky.
Zenit vs Lokomotiv Moscow – Match Stats
- In four games against Lokomotiv Moscow Zenit head coach Semak has managed just one victory, one draw and two defeats.
- Semak, however, managed four points with Ufa against Lokomotiv last season – his club won 1-0 on matchday 13 and drew Loko 0-0 on matchday 27 last season.
- Experienced Yuri Semin has averaged 1.46 points against Zenit. His record against the St. Petersburg club is W10 D11 L7.
- Zenit’s record against Lokomotiv is W14 D19 L13
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Zenit vs Lokomotiv Moscow – 3-0
Zenit vs Lokomotiv Moscow – Lineups
Zenit St. Petersburg:
Lunev – Anyukov, Neto, Ivanović, Smolnikov – Paredes, Kuzyaev – Driussi, Erokhin, Mak – Dzyuba
Head Coach: Sergey Semak
Guilherme – Höwedes, Corluka, Kvirkvelia – Bryan Idowu, Tarasov, Denisov, Ignatyev – Fernandes, Al. Miranchuk – Smolov
Head Coach: Yuri Semin
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.