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Leaders CSKA face tough Spartak test
Published : 21 Apr 2013 01:17:11Rss feed
Russian Premier League leaders CSKA Moscow face a tough examination of their title credentials in Moscow's most famous derby clash, against nine-time champions Spartak.
However, CSKA, who lead reigning champions Zenit St Petersburg by six points, will be boosted by the return of Brazilian forward Vagner Love following a one-game ban.
Japanese playmaker Keisuke Honda may also return after overcoming complications following the flu.
But Ivory Coast striker Seydou Doumbia, who missed another derby last week against Dynamo because of pain in his leg, remains uncertain for Sunday's game.
CSKA won the reverse fixture in October 2-0 and although they drew 0-0 at Dynamo last week, before that they were on a five-match winning streak in the league.
Zenit, who narrowed the gap on CSKA last week ago with a 1-0 win at Lokomotiv Moscow, will be looking to extend their four-match winning run to stay in the title race.
Despite the size of the gap, Zenit forward Alexander Kerzhakov remains confident the St Petersburg outfit can finish top of the pile again.
"There's nothing impossible in football," he said. "We understand perfectly that we cannot afford a slip up and have no choice but to win all of our remaining matches to defend the title.
"I can say with certainty that if we manage to win all six remaining matches, we will win another Russian title."
However, Zenit too are hamstrung by important injury problems.
For Sunday's match with visitors FC Krasnodar they will be without star Brazilian striker Hulk, who has a hip injury.
Zenit's club doctor said the 26-year-old forward will have to stay on the sidelines for up to three weeks in order to make a complete recovery while Italian wingback Domenico Criscito is also injured.
The defending champions will have to rely on 19-year-old goalkeeper Yegor Baburin as former Russian international Vyacheslav Malafeyev and Belarus international Yury Zhevnov are both injured.
Third-placed Anzhi, who managed to cut their five-match winless streak last week with a 3-0 win at Volga Nizhny Novgorod, will take on Dynamo on Sunday.
Anzhi skipper Samuel Eto'o, who missed his side's previous match with Volga after suffering a knee injury in Cameroon's 2014 World Cup qualifier with Togo on March 23, returned to regular training but still remains uncertain for the Dynamo encounter, according to the club.
Dynamo meanwhile will likely be without veteran midfielder Igor Semshov and the young prodigy Ivan Soloviev.
Two-time Russian champions Lokomotiv Moscow, who are coached by former Croatia manager Slaven Bilic, extended their winless streak in domestic league to seven matches as they were held to a 0-0 draw at Kuban at Krasnodar on Saturday.
The result lifted Kuban into sixth position with 40 points from 25 matches, 16 points behind CSKA Moscow.
Lokomotiv remain 10th with 34 points.
CSKA Moscow v Spartak Moscow
Zenit St Petersburg v FC Krasnodar
Anzhi Makhachkala v Dynamo Moscow
Rostov v Terek Grozny
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