Liverpool’s Europa League draw wasn’t the toughest all things considered. Barring the trip to Russia there shouldn’t really be anything there to concern us. There’s no reason The Reds shouldn’t top that group but It’d be foolish to take these matches for granted. I don’t think many fans will watch Russian League football so for a guide to Rubin Kazan I spoke to David Sansun, a writer for russianfootballnews.com who you can find on Twitter @RubinKazanUK.
What style of play can we expect to see from Rubin Kazan?
Currently Rubin tend to try and operate on the counter. They like to move the ball quickly up the pitch, and favour switching the ball in order to try and stretch the defence. Usually operating a 4-2-3-1 formation, the wingbacks, particularly captain Oleg Kuzmin, bomb up the pitch and operate essentially as wingers, allowing the actual wide players to cut inside as supporting forwards almost. Depending on who plays up front, they can either chuck balls into the box for their target man Igor Portnyagin, or thread balls between the line for the pacy Maxim Kanunnikov.
Who is their Key Player?
Carlos Eduardo. The Brazilian had a tough time adapting to Russia but has really become a vital player in the team over the last 12 months. Having been forced to play wide right in recent weeks following the arrival of former Everton midfielder Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, his effectiveness has been cut somewhat, but he is the creative cog in the side with a great burst of acceleration and an eye for a pass and all good attacking moves go through him.
Are there any players who could surprise the neutrals?
In terms of players that might not be known so well in England, we have Solomon Kverkvelia and Magomed Ozdoev. Kverkvelia is a 6’4 Georgian centre back, who despite his huge frame, can match almost any striker for pace. This combination of frame and pace makes him an excellent player on his day. Ozdoev typically is a box to box midfielder. I would liken him to Aaron Ramsey in terms of play style, he gets involved at both ends of the pitch, but has excellent close control and this helped him score some excellent solo goals last season.
Are there any potential weaknesses within the squad?
Well, at the moment, I suppose you could say the whole squad is a weakness. The team has had an awful start to the season, and particularly being forced to play inexperienced players in defence has cost several goals and points. On paper the team has lost only one first team player from last season and should not be performing any different, and so the fact this has happened has caused frustration and rumours of the manager being sacked.
How you see the group panning out?
Liverpool should come out on top with relative ease if they take it seriously. The fight between the other 3 clubs is up to anyone’s guess. Rubin have been dreadful domestically, but have a good record in Europe and their best performances this season have been in that competition. Bordeaux have had a poor start to their season I understand, and I think Sion cannot be underestimated, so any of these 3 sides could qualify as runner up. Rubin playing at home in winter later in the group could prove vital to their chances as travelling sides could struggle to adapt to the cold.