AEK Larnaca vs Spartak Moscow

AEK Larnaca vs Spartak Moscow

The Europa League qualifier AEK Larnaca vs Spartak Moscow, will set the tone for the Russian club this season. Spartak Moscow has already made a big splash on the transfer market by signing former Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Fernando for €12.5 million from Sampdoria Genoa, as well as the talented Russian midfielder Roman Zobnin for €3 million from city rivals Dinamo Moscow, which was relegated to the Football National League last season.

Spartak Moscow are also rumoured to stay active on the transfer market, but much of that will depend on whether the Muscovites can make the group stage of the UEFA Europa League, which would make it easier for manager Dmitriy Alenichev to convince potential star signings to travel out east to Russia’s capital—although another factor will be whether the club can sell the Armenian striker Yura Movsisyan, who was on loan to Real Salt Lake City, and the German defender Serdar Taşçı, who was on loan at Bayern in the spring.

The most important transfer for Spartak Moscow, however, was the signing of assistant manager, Massimo Carrera, who had previously worked with now Chelsea FC manager, Antonio Conte. Carrera has long been considered, the mastermind behind Conte’s defensive tactics, which were a big part of Italy’s strong performance at the European Championships in France this summer.

For Alenichev and Carrera, the game against Larnaca will be a major test, as the Cypriots are no strangers to European football. Last season, AEK Larnaca, which was founded only 22 years ago in 1994, reached the group stage of the UEFA Europa League, where they played Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Steaua Bucharest, and FC Schalke 04.

The Cypriots only finished fourth in the group, but the 2015-16 Cypriot First Divisions runners up will still be a tough nut to crack for the Russians, who haven’t participated in European football in the last two seasons.

Hence, Spartak, and their superstar striker Quincy Promes, will want to ensure that they set the tone right away, and break apart Lacarna’s defence. At the same time, they will need to be stable in defence in order to have a perfect result for when the tie heads back to Russia next week.

A stable defence is especially important because Alenichev may have to gamble a bit on the squad in order to preserve match fitness. Spartak Moscow will be playing Arsenal Tula in the home opener of the Russian Football Premier League season on Sunday July 31, which is just three days after the game against AEK Larnaca.

It will therefore be interesting to see how Alenichev, and Carrera approach the match on Thursday July 28: Will they go all out and get a decisive result? Or will they manage the squad and bank on Carrera’s defensive organizational skills to give Spartak a solid result to build on for next week in Moscow?

Either way, Spartak will be the favourites going into the match, but Larnaca’s coach, the Spaniard, Imanol Idiákez, is known for his technical tricks himself—he used a 3-5-2 formation in the second round qualifiers against the North Irish club Cliftonville.

Yet, despite Idiákez’s tactical ability, anything other than a decisive Spartak Moscow victory over two legs, would be an enormous surprise.

By Manuel Veth –