Specialists Debate – Five Reasons on who will Win the Moscow Derby

Specialists Debate – Five Reasons on who will Win the Moscow Derby

Andrew Flint and Tim Bogdachev –

Futbolgrad experts Andrew Flint, and Tim Bogdachev give five reasons each on why they think CSKA or Spartak will win the Moscow Derby.

Five reasons why CSKA will win the Moscow Derby

There is more at stake for them

Even if Spartak lose the Moscow Derby on Sunday, they will still have a four-point advantage with four games to play, so they can in one sense afford to approach the game in a more relaxed manner. Some would argue this is an advantage, but the Army Men have thrived off pressure and will relish the opportunity to be aggressive and unsettling.

Spartak have cracked twice already as league leaders

The 3-0 loss to Rostov last weekend was in itself not an utterly humiliating result on paper – they have one of the tightest defences in the league, and are masters of counter-attacking play as Bayern Munich found out to their cost. The 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Krylya Sovetov Samara earlier in the campaign was though, and going back further Spartak have a reputation as chokers.

CSKA don’t have the elephant in the room as big as Spartak do

No trophies for 16 years is not a great run for any side, but when you are by far the largest and most popular club in the country, it is a disaster. Lost opportunities and a lack of success has only built expectation amongst Myaso fans, and this pressure will be playing on the minds of Spartak’s players as they take to the field in the VEB Arena.

Pontus Wernbloom could be a major difference maker in the Moscow Derby (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

Pontus Wernbloom could be a major difference maker in the Moscow Derby (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

Home advantage

One of the biggest advantages CSKA will have is the simplest—their fans. Pound for pound, they are possibly the most raucous and passionate supporters in the RFPL, and although the design of the VEB Arena doesn’t appear to lend itself to acoustics at first glance, nothing could be further from the truth. The sheer hunger of CSKA fans inside a sold-out home stadium will be the fuel that will take some beating.

Vitinho and Pontus Wernbloom are hitting top form

Alan Dzagoev’s absence through yet another hamstring injury is easily the biggest blow to CSKA’s aspirations, but two of his teammates who will play vital roles are firing impressively. Brazilian forward Vitinho has not set the world alight since his return from an extended loan spell in his home country but scored this week, and Wernbloom – who somehow has only ever been sent off once in over 130 matches in Russian football – was imperious against Lokomotiv. If Alexander Golovin is in the mood, the set will be complete, and the Army Men will take some beating.

Five reasons why Spartak will win the Moscow Derby

Massimo Carrera

In my opinion, the Italian coach is the main man behind Spartak’s success this season. He brought in an organized tactical structure, passion and team spirit to the club, which has been lacking all those three qualities for years. He showed tactical flexibility, made substitutions, which were game changers. He also showed great team management keeping a big squad happy through squad rotation. I believe in Massimo, and I am sure he will come up with something mentally, emotionally and tactically which will get us three points on Sunday.


Spartak has that winning momentum and championship mentality. The red and whites have shown that they can grind out victories, and they have shown fighting spirit winning must-win games late (Amkar and Orenburg). The synergy in the team unites the players in the key moments and protects them from slipping up. Many players are having the season of their life (Jano Ananidze, Zé Luís, Denis Glushakov, Roman Zobnin, Artem Rebrov, Dmitri Kombarov)

Denis Glushakov and Zé Luís will return for the Moscow Derby

Both players have been pivotal to Spartak’s squad this year. Glushakov is the captain, the leader and the key player along with Fernando in the middle of the park. Zé Luís is equally important upfront. His ability to win balls is almost Lewandowskiesque. Given that he will face Sergei Ignashevich, Viktor Vasin and Aleksei and Vasili Berezutski, who are amazing at winning long balls as well as crosses, his participation in the game is crucial. I am just really hoping that he is fit to start the game, but I guess only himself and doctors know the answer to that question.

Denis Glushakov (l.) and Quincy Promes celebrate a goal early this season. Glushakov will be back for the Moscow Derby after serving a one match suspension. (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

Denis Glushakov (l.) and Quincy Promes celebrate a goal early this season. Glushakov will be back for the Moscow Derby after serving a one match suspension. (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

CSKA’s predictability

We all know that CSKA will play 5-3-2 and quickly can guess nine out 11 players who will start on Sunday. I think it makes Carrera’s job a bit easier. He is an Italian coach and worked with Antonio Conte at Juventus, Italian national team and played that system for years. He knows it in and out. Massimo knows how to break down that tactical set up. At the same time, I have no idea what squad and tactical setup Spartak will choose on the derby day. This season Spartak played 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2, 4-3-3 and even CSKA mirrored 5-3-2. I think it’s way easier for Spartak to prepare for CSKA than the other way around.

We also have to give a shout out to Roman Pylypchuk, an assistant coach whose job is to analyze the opponent. According to people close to the club, players and Carrera himself, Roman does an excellent job analyzing other teams and always comes up with interesting ideas which help the players to use weak sides of the teams the red and whites are facing.

Dzagoev’s absence

I don’t think this is the key factor. Therefore I listed it as reason #5, but in my opinion, CSKA lack of really top quality game changing players upfront. Aleksandr Golovin, Georgi Milanov, Aleksei Ionov, Vitinho, Fyodor Chalov, Aaron Olanare are good players, but not top class.


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.

Tim Bogdachev is a lifelong Spartak Moscow fan, and the host of the weekly punk rock radio show Rocket From Russia on CiTR 101.9 fm in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Follow Tim on Twitter @RussianTim61.