Europa League Preview: Krasnodar – Valencia

Russian Football News

In a finely poised tie, Krasnodar have a chance at getting through to the Europa League quarter-finals for the first time in their history thanks to a Viktor Claesson away goal in Valencia last week.

They saw much more of the ball than many expected last week, but to little avail for the majority of the game they were largely unable to turn their superior possession into penetrating key chances. Here their task is relatively straight forward: grab a goal, keep a clean sheet and they are through.

Arguably the main talking point for the Spaniards from a Russian perspective is the return home of World Cup hero Denis Cheryshev. Hopefully, the Spanish-raised winger will not come to haunt the hosts here.

Tactical Analysis

This, however, is much easier said than done. Valencia raced into a two-goal lead thanks to a brace from Rodrigo, one of many seasoned and talented forwards in Los Ches‘ armoury.

Krasnodar’s blueprint last week was too soak up pressure and counter at pace through Claesson, Wanderson and Shapi, but this went out the window after just 25 minutes. Marcelino’s were happy to give Krasnodar much of the ball last Thursday, once the Bulls finally found their rythem after a slow start. They cannot afford such a similar phase of play here, with an away goal changing the complexion of the game entirely.

Despite being at home, expect a similar approach from Murad Musaev’s men – he opted for a mixture of pressing and counter-attacking. At the beginning of the match, when Krasnodar had fresh legs, they pressed high up the pitch and tried to close down passing lanes. As the game wore on, Krasnodar were given much more of the ball and a piece of brilliant individual quality from the Swede provided Krasnodar a vital away goal and hope for progression.

Valencia will look to counter, especially through goalscorer Rodrigo and veteran Kevin Gamerio up front. Keeping Valencia out, however, is a much harder task now with both captain central defender and midfield general Alyaksandar Martynovich and Charles Kabore both suspended from the tie.

Team News

As aforementioned, Martynovich and Kabore both miss out due to suspension, expect Jon Fjoluson and Mauricio Pereyra (himself returning from a one-match suspension) to deputise.

First choice ‘keeper Stanislav Kristyuk is still injured, so youngster Matvei Safonov will continue to deputise in goal. Elsewhere, Pavel Mamaev is still in prison since his arrest for assault and young starlet Ivan Ignatiev will remain in Russia after being demoted to Krasnodar-2 after turning down a new five-year contract with the Bulls.

Ari may start up front, with Claesson dropping to the wing and Shapi to the bench. His gamesmanship and experience will be vital in a sold-out pressure-cooker of a game, and youngster Magomed-Shapi Suleymanov should feature off the bench late on as a true impact substitute. Though he performed well, Krasnodar lacked a vital outlet and penetration in attack last week.

Key Players

In Charles Kabore’s absence, Yuri Gazinsky will really need to step up and lead from the defensive midfield. Stand-in captain in place of Martynovich and a surprise star of the World Cup, Gazinsky can play as either a true box-to-box midfielder or a defensive playmaker. He often performs better in a deeper role, and will allow Kristoffer Olsson and Mauricio Pereyra to break forward when necessary.

Once again, Krasnodar’s star man is Viktor Claesson. He will be the man head coach Murad Musaev looks to unlock Valencia’s defence, whether it is by playmaking from deep or clinically finishing in attack. He has formed an uncanny partnership with Wanderson and Ari, contributing to 60% of all Krasnodar league goals this season.

Krasnodar’s system predicates upon being high in the opposition territory for the majority of the game, and thus a player who can unlock a defence is much more important than a dynamic and pacey dribbler. Of course, Wanderson does have the latter on the opposing side but he operates in a much wider role. Claesson is not a typical winger but very much an old-school inside forward who possesses the perfect technical ability to move between the lines of a packed defence. As a result, he already has an impressive nine goals and six assists from 26 games in all competitions this season.

Predicted Line-up

Krasnodar (4-2-3-1): Safonov – Petrov, Spajic, Fjoluson, Ramirez – Gazinsky, Olsson – Wanderson, Pereyra, Claesson – Ari


Early on last week, 2-0 actually flattered Musaev’s men – despite already being an alarming scoreline. They simply started incredibly slowly and could not get a foothold at all in the game. This time, they cannot afford such a slow start and need to shut-up shop to keep Valencia out.

Krasnodar may dominate possession, or sit deep in order to contain Valencia, but their system tends to leave large gaps in behind to exploit, and Uros Spajic must turn his solid form in Martynovich’s absence to prove his is totally capable to replace the summer outgoing of Andreas Granqvist.

However, Valencia are just as unpredictable as they are dangerous. Despite playing similarly on the front foot, they prove nothing of Krasnodar’s almost stiff consistency.

Despite this being Krasnodar’s fifth appearance in the last-16 they have never progressed beyond this point. That being said, the Bulls are now six unbeaten at home in Europe. If they can manage their nerves and keep it steady at the back, they will progress.

Krasnodar 1 – 0 Valencia


Author: James Nickels

Born and raised in South Shields, the direct mid-point between Sunderland and Newcastle in North-East England during an era of sustained success and European football for the Magpies, while the Black Cats floundered in the lower divisions, so naturally I decided to support Sunderland. I’ve developed an interest in Russian football over the last decade or so, but it piqued while studying for my Masters’ Degree in Russian and Soviet History, and I’ve been hooked by Spartak Moscow ever since. Considers Eduard Streltsov the best of his generation, and a fond proponent of his repatriation.

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