The game will be Tambov’s last in the Russian Premier League, with the side already resigned to relegation and an uncertain future in the Football National League or possibly worse. The side only founded in 2013 have a number of off-field problems to go alongside their poor performance on the pitch, being forced to play their home games 400 kilometers away due to stadium issues and that combined with major financial problems mean this may be the final game for this incarnation of FC Tambov at the very least.
Sergei Semak’s side faced a tough challenge in last weekend’s clash with Ufa. The blue-white-sky blues had control and possession throughout the game, but could not find a way through the tough Ufa backline. The biggest chance of the game came to the Champions in added time of the first half. A penalty was awarded when VAR had adjudged Ufa defender Konstantin Pliyev to have handled the ball in the area. Sardar Azmoun stepped up to take the spot kick, but his effort was well saved to the left by eventual man of the match Aleksandr Belenov. The Ufa goalkeeper proved to be the invaluable for the home side in the game as he made a string of acrobatic saves across the 90 minutes, denying Malcom twice early with a double save. Then in the second half, the keeper parried a curled effort from Karavayev over the bar.
Tambov have struggled all season and have only seen their form drop throughout the season. They have lost every game following the restart after the winter’s break and have conceded 60 goals so far this season. The Wolves have also struggled in the scoring department, with just seven players netting for the side this season and two of their top scorers, German Onugkha with four goals and Alexander Karapetyan with three having departed the club midway through the season, as did many of the first-team squad as the club's major financial difficulties took hold and massively increased their already very difficult task of RPL survival.
Sergei Peruvshin sets his side out in a 5-3-2 formation, with Artyom Arkhiphov up top. The striker, who joined on loan from Kuban Krasnodar in the winter transfer window has managed to score three goals this season and did get their consolation in the 3-1 loss to Akhmat Grozny last weekend.
Tambov were the visitors of the opening game at the Gazprom Arena. Quick fire goals in the opening stages of the second half from Aleksandr Erokhin and Artem Dzyuba gave Zenit control of the game. Olabiron Muyiwa replied in the 77th minute but the home side saw the game out to win 4-1.
Before the game Sergei Semak spoke of both sides hunger to win the game, despite neither side having anything left to play for. “It’s still a strong contest, and every team and every player wants to win” and changes are expected with Dejan Lovren still recovering from injury and the club’s foreign internationals expected to be rested ahead of the short summer break.
Tambov v Zenit takes place on Sunday 16 May at 2pm St. Petersburg time/Midday UK at the Saransk World Cup Stadium and will be shown live on the RPL YouTube channel.