AHEAD of Liverpool’s final group game against Spartak Moscow, we spoke to John Bradley, Russian football expert and former LFCTV commentator, to get the latest on the Russian Premier League champions.
Spartak Moscow have won nine, drawn seven and lost just three in the league this season, and currently sit in fourth place, that’s not too dissimilar to Liverpool’s form, are there some similarities there?
After waiting 16 years to end their title drought, it was no surprise to see Spartak suffer a bit of a title hangover at the start of this season. Hampered by injuries to their key players and playing with the weight of expectation of being champions really affected their form earlier in the season. At times they were very poor, but ever since the big players returned they’ve looked a lot better.
They have won their last four in the league, should they be confident going into Wednesday?
It’s not just the four wins, it’s the fact they went to Krasnodar, who were above them in the table and are notoriously difficult to beat at home, and they scored four. They then comfortably beat Zenit Saint Petersburg at home. Spartak v Zenit is Russia’s Liverpool v Manchester United, so the result was massive for them, and in truth, they won it at a canter. They prepared for Liverpool by winning at Arsenal Tula on Friday night. Last season, a major factor in winning the league was the late goals they got and they did it again on Friday, with their skipper Denis Glushakov scoring late doors.
Spartak have had a real mix of results in Group E so far, which of those results is more representative of this side, the draws with minnows Maribor or the remarkable win at home to Sevilla?
Genuinely, it’s hard to say. On their day, when their attackers click, they can challenge most teams. That said, to put five past Sevilla was astonishing and everyone in Russia was flabbergasted. When the draw was made, it was assumed that Sevilla and Liverpool would qualify with Spartak third, that Spartak could provide a shock in some games but be shocked in others. It’s pretty much what we’ve come to expect from Russian teams in Europe in recent years.
A video has been kicking round on Twitter of a great, almost Liverpool-like, goal scored against Zenit recently, is that the sort of thing this Spartak side are capable of regularly creating?
Yeah, and that goal came against Zenit, so you can imagine how much coverage it’s had. It’s a brilliant one-touch passing goal and very Liverpool like, but we don’t see as many for Spartak as Liverpool have scored of late. They’ve got some good players. Quincy Promes is top notch, while Luiz Adriano, Glushakov and Fernando stand out in the Russian league.
Also, Liverpool will have to be aware of Ze Luis, the big lad from Cape Verde is a physical presence and very good in the air. Sometimes he looks like he’s about to fall over the ball but he scores goals. Bear in mind that Glushakov, Promes and Ze Luis all missed the game in Moscow through injury, so their return can’t be underestimated.
Spartak have had three players sent off this season, does that suggest ill discipline or should Liverpool be expecting a more combative performance?
Not really, two of the red cards came against Zenit, so write them off straight away. I think you’ll see a side that will sit and defend but look to break and attack wherever they can. Massimo Carrera spent enough years working under Antonio Conte at Juventus and Italy to know how to organise and team and get them playing for each other.
Promes has been the star of Spartak’s season so far, is he a player you could picture fitting in at Liverpool in the future?
Promes is a player that all the top teams in England have looked at. I think he may well have ended up moving to the Premier League had Spartak not won the league last year. He’s a nice, humble kid with great desire and dedication so I do expect to see him in the Premier League. He’s big mates with Gini Wijnaldum too so you never know!
To hear more from Sasha on our pre-match preview show, Under The Lights, ahead of the visit of Spartak Moscow, SUBSCRIBE to TAW Player for just £5 a month. A subscription also gives you access to our podcast archive – here are some of the highlights so far…
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