Zenit started their league campaign with a hard-fought victory against Tambov (2-1), whereas Sochi were unlucky to lose to Spartak Moscow by a goal conceded late in added time.
Zenit’s first half against Tambov was extremely cagey and featured some good defending from the newcomers. In the second period, Aleksandr Erokhin and Artem Dzyuba scored within two minutes of each other and got Zenit off to a flying start. The game slowed down after this, and was fairly eventless before opposition player Olabiran Blessing ‘Benito’ Muyiwa ran through the Zenit defence and got them back into the game with a splendid goal. Fortunately, Tambov did not score again and Zenit finished the game as winners.
Sochi played Spartak at the Otkritiye Arena in Moscow, and thoroughly impressed, against the odds. Ex-Zenit players, Ibrahim Tsallagov, Ivan Novoseltsev, Dmitri Poloz and Elmir Nabiullin all started the game, doing well in their respective roles. After fighting bravely for 90 minutes, they were outdone by a Samuel Gigot header in the 93rd minute.
Sochi’s pre-season consisted of four games, similar to Zenit’s. The southern club first beat Far Easterners Luch Energiya Vladivostok 2-0, but were drubbed 7-1 by Spartak Moscow and 4-3 by Olimpija Ljubljana. Their last friendly ended in a 2-1 win for them, against Croats HNK Rijeka.
Zenit have not engaged in any transfer business since our last preview. Daler Kuzyaev is still out injured, but talismanic midfielder Wilmar Barrios has returned from the Copa America, and made an appearance off the bench in Zenit’s match against Tambov.
Sochi have signed a number of high profile players this summer, stringing together one of the better transfer windows in the RPL. As mentioned before, Novoseltsev, Poloz, Nabiullin and Tsallagov joined the club from Zenit. Highly experienced Russians Fedor Kudryashov, Aleksandr Bukharov and Soslan Dzhanaev also made the move to the coast.
In addition to these, Vladimir Obukhov, Timofey Margasov, Pavel Shakuro, Evgeniy Frolov and Aleksandre Karapetian were added to Sochi’s arsenal.
Some players also left the club, although this is not expected to greatly hamper their prospects in the league this season. Among the departures were Arkadi Kalaydzhyan, Steven Alfred, Andrey Bychkov and Andrey Zajtsev. The only injury Sochi have to deal with is that of Maksim Barsov’s, an ACL tear expected to heal by November.
Zenit: Andrey Lunev; Igor Smolnikov, Branislav Ivanovic, Yaroslav Rakitskyi, Douglas Santos; Wilmar Barrios, Aleksey Sutormin, Magomed Ozdoev, Sebastian Driussi; Sardar Azmoun, Artem Dzyuba
Tambov: Soslan Dzhanaev; Ivan Novoseltsev, Ivan Miladinovic, Nikita Kalugin; Elmir Nabiullin, Ibrahim Tsallagov, Yan Kazaev, Evgeniy Pesegov, Timofey Margasov; Dmitri Poloz, Vladimir Obukhov