Lokomotiv Moscow vs CSKA Moscow – Match Preview

Lokomotiv Moscow vs CSKA Moscow – Match Preview

Lokomotiv Moscow vs CSKA Moscow is often called the small Moscow Derby. During the time of the Soviet Union, Lokomotiv was often understood as the weakest out of the five traditional Moscow teams—CSKA, Spartak, Torpedo, Dinamo, and Lokomotiv.

In fact Lokomotiv spent most of the 1980s in the Soviet First League (second division), and it was not until after the fall of the Soviet Union that Lokomotiv became a real force in Russian football.

In 1996 Lokomotiv won its first major title since 1957 when they won the Russian Cup. Since 1996 Lokomotiv has won a further five Russian Cups, including last season. In the early 2000s Lokomotiv’s owner the Russian Railways (RZhD) started to make major investments in the club.

Lokomotiv became the first club to open a new stadium in post-Soviet Russia in 2002, and the alluring Lokomotiv Arena also brought about an increase in Lokomotiv’s popularity in the city. With the opening of the new arena, attendance at Lokomotiv home games increased from 4,480 in 2001 to around 15,000 in 2010.

But poor results in the league, and lack of success since the last title has meant that attendance at the Lokomotiv Arena has plummeted in recent years. In fact this season Lokomotiv’s attendance numbers were, according to Sovetskii Sport, just 8708—CSKA Moscow has also struggled with attendance, but the club plays in the unwelcoming Khimki Arena.

Low attendance numbers, and high spending have also meant that the club is also under Financial Fair Play investigations by UEFA, as low attendance numbers make it difficult for RZhD to justify large sponsorship agreements with the club.

Some of this can be explained by a general trend of low attendance for Russian games in recent seasons, but Lokomotiv have also suffered from the fact that many Muscovites view the team as the Russian version of Bayer Leverkusen or Red Bull Salzburg—a company team without soul.

It is also for that reason that Lokomotiv are not seen as a major rival by the fans of the other Moscow clubs.

Yet there are many reasons to play close attention to the city derby between Lokomotiv and CSKA Moscow, as both clubs are deeply intertwined in this season’s title race. CSKA Moscow are currently first in the Russian Football Premier League with 46 points, and Lokomotiv are fourth with 42 points.

Hence, for both teams this game will be of major significance, as a Lokomotiv victory would bring the Railwaymen within a point of CSKA Moscow. A victory by CSKA Moscow on the other hand would effectively eliminate Lokomotiv from the title race; Lokomotiv would be seven points behind first place with just six games remaining.

CSKA Moscow coach Leonid Slutsky has told championat.com “The match is really very important. But at the same time we don’t have unimportant matches left. Lokomotiv are trying to make themselves the underdog, and they well most certainly play on the counterattack against us. The Railwaymen know how to defend well, and their strategy is to hit teams on the counterattack. Make no mistake it is no coincidence that they are in the group of title challengers right now.”

As part of their advertisement for the game have portrayed defender Vitaliy Denisov, as Thor. The message is clear that Lokomotiv players will have to play like super heroes to get the necessary result on Saturday.

By Manuel Veth –