Lokomotiv, Zenit face tough tests in title race
Russian league leaders Lokomotiv face a tough test of their title claims in Sunday's Moscow derby clash with city rivals Spartak.
The railway-backed side are currently three points ahead of their closest chasers Zenit St Petersburg, who beat guests Samara 2-1 in their first match under new head coach Andre Villas-Boas on Monday.
Meanwhile, nine-time champions Spartak, who also changed their manager last week installing Dmitry Gunko as an interim head coach, suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat at the hands of FC Kranodar.
But there is little doubt that Spartak, who currently share the third spot with two other city rivals Dynamo and CSKA, will give everything against Lokomotiv to stay in the race for the Premiership title.
Lokomotiv head coach Leonid Kuchuk called on his players to stay focused. "It's too early to talk seriously about the title," Kuchuk said.
"We're just three points ahead of Zenit, its just one win or a defeat. Besides, three other clubs are chasing the leading duo closely. They also have ambitions and will fight to rise as high as they can.
"We have no other choice but to stay completely focused in the remaining matches and play at our best to stay top of the league. The clash with Spartak will show whether we're ready for it."
Zenit will also need to show their best football in Saturday's tie at Amkar, who are unbeaten on their home Perm turf, and are targeting a Europa League berth.
Zenit's new manager Villas-Boas said he was pleased with his team's performance in the match with Samara, adding that the four days leading up to the match with Amkar were sufficient preparation time.
"I'm really pleased with my men's performance. They played well despite all the difficulties," he said.
Reigning champions CSKA Moscow, who thrashed Anzhi 3-0 to return to the title race, have a fair chances of extending their winning ways in domestic league as they take on minnows Volga Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday.
Ural Yekaterinburg v Anzhi Makhachkala, Amkar Perm v Zenit St Petersburg
Lokomotiv Moscow v Spartak Moscow, Tomsk v Dynamo Moscow, Rubin Kazan v Rostov, Kuban Krasnodar v FC Krasnodar
Samara v Terek Grozny, CSKA Moscow v Volga Nizhny Novgorod
Related Lokomotiv Moscow News