Europa League Preview: Valencia – Krasnodar

Shapi celebrates with the fans after Krasnodar’s away goals win over Bayer 04 Leverkusen | J?rg Schüler/Getty Images

Krasnodar head to Spain on high spirits after dumping out German giants Bayer Leverkusen in the last round. However, they face another tough task with a game against a Valencia side who had until recently been rather out of sorts – but have hit a hot streak just at the right time.

Tactical Analysis

Expect very much the same as the second-leg against Bayer. Ordinarily, Krasnodar monopolize possession and control games. However, here they reached just 30% as the Bulls were instructed by Musaev to look for a break on the counter. 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 all the way back to Leverkusen’s keeper. This approach yielded several quality chances that weren’t realized. As the game wore on, Krasnodar sat back and played on the counter.

The game is in Spain and scoring just one away goal puts Krasnodar in a good position to go through. Musaev may opt to play pragmatically and play on the counter.

Team News

Ari has returned from an injury which kept him out of the Round of 32 altogether and will likely go straight into the side. Young striker and starter in Germany, Ivan Ignatiev, however, has reportedly turned down a new five-year contract at Krasnodar and featured for Krasnodar-2 as the first-team faced Spartak in Moscow on Sunday. He did not travel to Spain for the match.

Mauricio Pereyra is suspended after picking up a third yellow card of the tournament at Leverkusen, while Aleksandr Martynovich, Charles Kabore and Dmitri Stotskiy are one caution away from missing the second leg.

Uros Spajic will return to the side having missed out through suspension at the weekend and Stanislav Kristyuk is a doubt after picking up another injury before the second-leg in Germany.

Key Players

Viktor Claesson 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 formed an uncanny partnership with Wanderson and Ari, contributing to 61% of all Krasnodar goals in the league 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 dribbler with bags of pace. 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 eight goals and five assists from 24 games in all competitions this season.

On the defensive end, Krasnodar will need another big performance from holding midfielder Charles Kabore. Kabore was immaculate last week, playing what was probably his best game of the season. At his best, he is capable of winning challenges and playing long, slicing balls forwards to start attacks. It will be crucial that Kabore maintain discipline in this match, as he sometimes commits to rash challenges high up the pitch and leaves space for the other team to attack into.

Predicted Line-up

Krasnodar (4-3-3): Safonov – Petrov, Martynovich, Spajic, Ramirez – Gazinsky, Kabore, Olsson – Wanderson, Ari, Claesson

Match Prediction

This one is almost too close too call. Valencia have the home advantage, as well as vital pedigree, European experience and superior talent on paper. However, Bayer did too in the deciding leg last time out.

Bayer are 11 games unbeaten and have won six of their last seven in the Europa League. Although they were previously struggling domestically, they are now hitting top form and will take some stopping.

There is hope, however, with the hosts missing Ezequiel Garay due to injury and Facundo Roncaglia & Geoffrey Kondogbia through suspension.

Expect another very exciting and tense affair just like with Bayer, as both Marcelino and Musaev play very similar football and have similar philosophies. However, Krasnodar’s poor away form in Europe may come to haunt them in Valencia. The away goal is crucial.

Valencia 1 – 1 Krasnodar


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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