“At Zenit, they understand that it’s time to take the next step after internal successes”

Zenit, after two consecutive victories in the Russian championship, should take the next step and successfully play in the Champions League. Such an opinion was expressed by the former coach of Akhmat, Amkar and Lokomotiv Rashid Rakhimov. “Krasnodar”, as he said, sometimes it is necessary to play “second number”. 

- Zenit became the champion of Russia four rounds before the end of the season and is 13 points ahead of the closest pursuer. Is it possible to say that Petersburgers are currently a cut above the rest of the RPL teams?

- I won’t say anything about the whole head, but the Zenith is definitely higher than the rest. See how powerful the team has in picking players, which players are sitting there on the bench. Sergey Semak has the opportunity to vary the composition during the matches. And the game does not deteriorate among Petersburgers. In this regard, Zenit is superior to its competitors.

- In your opinion, have Petersburgers shown a champion game this season?

- Not the most vivid matches happen at Zenit, but the high individual skill of the players affects them. Together, it provides teamwork. However, in European competitions it is not always enough. In the Champions League, the team lacks the speed that is needed in this tournament. If you look at the matches of the leading European championships, the intensity there is completely different than in the RPL, the game is built in a completely different way. This “Zenith” in European competition may not be enough. I think the club understands perfectly well that it is time to take the next step after internal successes. To make it will be much harder than to achieve success in the RPL.

- Are there any prerequisites for Zenit to play in the Champions League more successfully next season than this year?

- Experience and teamwork are good. It seems to me that the team just does not need to make big changes. It is very important not to lose in quality, but to gain, if possible. And so you can recall the matches with Leipzig, in which the opponent was clearly superior to St. Petersburg in speed. In order to reach this level, it is necessary to draw conclusions and catch up with the strongest European teams in all these parameters.  

- At the moment, there are a lot of age-old players in the Zenit squad. Do not you think that in the future this may become a problem for the team?

- Indeed, many of the players who make up the backbone of Zenit have already been in 30 years. It will be very difficult for them to withstand the struggle on three fronts, given the Cup of Russia. At this age, the speed does not get higher, although experience is added. I think that at Zenit they perfectly understand that the composition of the team needs to be rejuvenated. But this rejuvenation must be of high quality.  

- Can such an early victory in the championship negatively affect the preparation of Zenit for the game against Spartak in the semifinal of the Russian Cup?

- All the same, the championship continues. I think Semak will carry out a certain rotation of the squad anyway. “Zenith” in no case can not relax and think that everything is decided. On the contrary, the team has the opportunity to concentrate on preparing for the Cup and to qualitatively hold two matches in it, and not one. The ability to make a “golden double” cannot but sit in the heads of the players. Therefore, I do not believe that Zenit will relax.

As for RPL matches, even if there are some kind of rearrangements in the squad, everyone will want to go on the field and prove themselves. Do not forget that the club has not yet extended contracts with many players, including the Russians. They will have more than enough motivation.

- In matches with rivals from the top 5 RPL “Krasnodar” this season has not won a single victory. This suggests that the southerners have not learned to play with the giants?

- Rather, that the southerners continue to bend their line and play spectacular football, more focused on the attack. In the match with Zenit, this was especially clear. But in this case, “Krasnodar” loses the balance in the game. We saw what balls the wards of Murad Musaev missed from St. Petersburg, which free zones were left in their half of the field.

Any good team primarily relies on balance. None of the phases of the game should “sag”. Otherwise, this weakness will certainly be used by rivals.

- That is, Krasnodar becomes a hostage to its style?

- Remember the match of “Krasnodar” with CSKA at the end of last season. Then the southerners played the “second number” and achieved the most important victory, which allowed them to break into the Champions League for the first time in history. And after all, matches in a similar vein were successful for them. Musaev’s wards competently used the free zones and, conducting quick attacks, were in their element.

Then "Krasnodar" stepped on the throat of his own song and achieved a result. To continue to pursue it, the team needs to be more flexible. No one says that you need to give up your style, but it is important to balance the game on the defensive. Krasnodar has every opportunity to find this balance.

“Many people think that Krasnodar lacks the spirit of a winner.” How do southerners find it?

- I do not think that we are talking about any psychological problems. But, perhaps, if Krasnodar allows itself to play the “second number”, psychologically it will be even easier for him. The team will understand that it can be unpredictable for rivals, and will feel self-confidence. And so today everyone already understands how Krasnodar will play, and are ready for it. If the southerners showed more flexibility, it would be more difficult for opponents, since no one would know what to expect from them.

- In the current RPL season, the team has realized only three out of seven penalties. Is it psychology or a banal lack of luck?

- In this case, I would not talk about psychology. It just happens in football. 

Lokomotiv moves on the baggage of Yuri Pavlovich Semin

The game of “Locomotive” has not changed in any way with the advent of Marco Nikolic, said the former goalkeeper of the Russian national team Ruslan Nigmatullin. However, in his opinion, fans in a difficult situation should support the players. Also, the ex-goalkeeper spoke about two consecutive victories of CSKA. 

- Under the leadership of Marco Nikolic, Lokomotiv played four matches in which it scored eight points. Is it possible to draw the first conclusions about the work of the Serb in Russia?

- It's too early. After all, Nikolic flew to Moscow not so long ago, then spent two weeks in quarantine. All this time, his assistants worked with the players. So quickly changing the team’s game is difficult. We can say while the Lokomotiv is moving on the baggage of Yuri Pavlovich Semin. And to draw conclusions about the work of Nikolic, you need a full season. At the moment, the main task of the Serb is not to spoil what was done before him.

- Has the railwaymen’s game under Nikolic changed in some way, or is it still Semin’s team?

- So far I have not noticed any changes. The team seems to be playing well, but somewhere it is not lucky, in some matches, a little is not enough to win. There is work to do.

- Was it worth it for Lokomotiv to return Fedor Smolov after the lease term? Now the team in the attack is forced to rely only on Eder, and Alexei Miranchuk chalked up all the goals of the railway workers after the resumption of the season.

- Smolov is where it should be. With all due respect to Fedor, his level of motivation in Lokomotiv was low, as was his efficiency. Actually, this is the reason for his departure to Spain. Smolov received a new challenge, and there is no sense in yanking him. Perhaps he will return, but, in my opinion, Lokomotiv is looking for other ways to strengthen the team. Now the railwaymen can only do it on their own.

- What do you attribute to Alexey Miranchuk's so high performance after the resumption of the season?

- He plays well, as he is a high-level football player who has gained excellent form. You can’t say that we did not expect such a game from Miranchuk. He had long established himself as a performer of an exceptional class, but somewhere he lacked stability. It was high time for Alexei to become the leader of Lokomotiv.

- Now it seems that if Miranchuk leaves, the railway workers, a disaster awaits ...

- The main thing is not to panic. In this case, Lokomotiv will not work simply for sale. But, as they say, there are no irreplaceable ones. The club will take steps to find Alexei an equivalent replacement. With a competent transfer policy, this is possible.

- Do not you think that psychology of Nikolic is dominated by the fear of failure? He does not receive any support from the fans.

- You know, in the football world there are so many more unhappy people than Nikolic. Serb is not a girl to nurse. It is clear that when you come to a living place, you have to win the love of the fans. The role of Semin in the club was too great.

- Is it worth the fans in this situation to unite around the team? After all, to some extent, their actions only harm her ...

- I would like the Lokomotiv stadium, as in the best of times, to be among the leaders in the country both in terms of occupancy and level of support. Now, unfortunately, is not such a period. But if fans don’t want to support the club’s leadership and coach, they can at least help the players. That would be logical.

- CSKA, after returning to the coaching bridge, Victor Goncharenko won two victories with a total score of 6: 0. Is it possible to say that this step of the Belarusian helped to shake the team?

- Goncharenko is boiling. Unfortunately, then a tragedy occurred in the trainer's family. I take this opportunity to express my condolences to him. Nevertheless, Viktor Mikhailovich managed to restart the team, although many, when the Belarusian left home, doubted that it would be possible to do so. But in recent matches, with Spartak and Akhmat, CSKA appeared as a completely different team.  

- It is already known that Goncharenko will miss the game with Orenburg due to the death of his mother. Will the tragedy further rally the team around the coach?

- I think the players, of course, will support him. And the best support in this situation will be three points. It is possible that Goncharenko’s departure to Belarus was originally associated with the tragedy in his family, so I would not like to discuss this topic. 

- A tense calendar will help CSKA maintain their courage, or, on the contrary, can they run out of strength?

- All teams are in the same condition now. Who better spent a month of preparation before the resumption of the season, he will withstand the hardest calendar. Unfortunately, there is a big difference between Zenit and the rest in this regard. The current part of the season clearly demonstrates this. So far, not a single team claiming high places, except for Petersburgers, has managed to avoid failures. The problem of CSKA is the lack of depth of composition. But still they play in a completely normal mode. And the guys in the team are young.  

- What has changed in the game of CSKA after the defeat from Zenit?

- If the old tactic does not work, it certainly needs to be changed. First of all, the army team began to act more confidently and without gross errors in the defense. It is clear that in the game with Zenit, CSKA did not succeed, there was a big mess in the defense. Plus, the red and blue began to play faster, and Zoran Vlašić took the reins of leadership.  

- CSKA with “Rostov” behind the third place by five points for lost points. Believe that one of them will join the fight for medals and trips to the Champions League?

- As you can see, all teams lose points, so it can still be. Stability is not distinguished by any of the teams claiming to be in the Champions League. I would not discount CSKA or Rostov, as long as they still have theoretical chances.