While the majority of Europe’s domestic seasons are thinking about the march to a swift conclusion, either death or glory – death being the pain of turning out every weekend with little to play for – in Russia the 2010 campaign is just about to get started. The winter training camps are a distant memory and now the serious stuff is about to begin.

Last year Rubin Kazan proved that their 2008 title victory was not a fluke, but something brought about by the hard work of the club’s owners, coach and wonderful, if not well known, players. Rubin managed to see off the challenge of the other giants of the Russian game and even shocked Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the Champions League. They remain the team to beat.

Khimki Moscow and Kuban Krasnodar suffered the pain of relegation, while FC Moscow joined them after the withdrawal of their main sponsor. Unfortunately this highlights a quick-growing universal truth, that all teams with poor financial support are doomed to occupy the lower spots in the table.

Here is a rundown of each Premier League club and how they are shaping up for the new Russian season.

Alania Vladikavkaz

The return of Alania Vladikavkaz to the top flight had been expected for several years, but only now the former champions have managed to literally drill their way to the Premier League. Now they have a chance to survive amongst the top 16 clubs in the land.

Little significant financial support has stopped the club from making any headline grabbing signings, however last season showed there are already plenty of mature talents who are desperate for a chance to prove themselves worthy.

Key arrivals: Vitaly Chochiev, Sergei Dadu, Elbrus Tandelov
Key departures: None
Prediction: 11th

Amkar Perm

A somewhat average side that appeared in the Premier League several years ago and threatened the established order, finishing fourth, fifth and sixth and playing as much for pleasure as anything else.

Coach Rashid Rahimov has a limited choice of players and finance available and when he loses a player for good money must hope his scouts can find a replacement that won’t cost Amkar a lot. This season the Perm club had to let seven players leave, and signed only one. For how long such an approach will prolong their successful run remains unclear, so Amkar’s owners must search for new investment.

Key arrivals: Denis Dedechko (Dynamo Kyiv)
Key departures: Predrag Sikimic, Edin Junuzovich, Juan Carlos, Mihail Afanasjev, Sergei Morozov
Prediction: 8th

Anzhi Makhachkala

One of the new sides in the Premier League and one that can and most probably will cause a few shocks. Led by former Roma player Omari Tetradze, Anzhi have not purchased a single player of Premier League standard, but instead hope their desire to win and prove they are worth their place in the top flight will be enough.

This is the brave and passionate attitude that has helped many Eastern European clubs to become strong and famous, but perhaps ruined just as many. The formation of a footballing power is not an overnight business, but Anzhi are another dark horse in Russian football and should not be written off yet.

Key arrivals: Mitar Pekovic, Dmitri Ivanov
Key departures: None
Prediction: 12th

CSKA Moscow

The major disappointments of the previous season. With so many coaches having spells at the club, CSKA simply did not know what they should do on the pitch. The constant changing of strategies and rotation of players resulted in a raft of awkward performances where the team seemed disconnected from each other and operated instead as individuals.

With Leonid Slutsky now installed as head coach, CSKA’s owners have stopped searching for candidates to take over and only the coach knows what he expects from his charges in the future. The structure laid down by Valery Gazzayev, and the style of play he instilled, still prevail at the club. Slutsky though is a milder character than Gazzayev and will need time to impose his views on the game on young players like Alan Dzagoyev, Pavel Mamaev, Milos Krasic and Guilherme.

Key arrivals: Honda Keisuke (VVV Venlo), Chepchugov Sergei (Sibir Novosibirsk), Seku Jabate (FC Midtjylland)
Key departures: Anton Vlasov (FK Volga), Nikita Burmistrov (Amkar Perm),
Prediction: 3rd

Dynamo Moscow

Just a couple of years Dynamo Moscow were progressing as quickly as Zenit, but stopped their ascent just as rapidly. Unfortunately for their fans, Dynamo have always been a club that can produce a series of wonderful performances, but then relax and begin to play like amateurs.

Coach Andre Kobelev, a former Dynamo player, promised he would do his best to transform the team as much as possible and it does seem the team may be ready to achieve heights only previously dreamt about. Dynamo, almost as much as Spartak, have been a people’s team for decades, but since the fall of the USSR have not enjoyed significant success.

Key arrivals: Alexey Ryabko, Alexander Samedov, Alexander Epuryanu (all FK Moskva), Andrei Voronin (Liverpool), Igor Semshov (Zenit)
Key departures: Pimenov Ruslan, Jovan Tanasjevich (both free agents),
Prediction: 5th

FC Rostov

Last season was one of nerves for Rostov as they finished just three points above the drop zone. This time around though there is a more positive feel around the club after Ukrainian coach Oleg Protasov was brought in.

Rostov’s players seem to have bought in to what Protasov is trying to do and the Ukrainian has been trusted by the club’s owners too, who have allowed him to shape his own squad. With financing equal to that of Saturn, Terek, Tom Tomsk and Sibir, Rostov will be confident of a successful campaign, even if a high of sixth which was reached in 2003 may be optimistic. It will be a struggle though.

Key arrivals: Anri Hagush, Roman Adamov (both from Rubin Kazan), Dejan Radic (Spartak Nalchik), Stanislav Ivanov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Giona Sorin (Steaua Bucharest), Andrei Proshin (Alania Vladikavkaz), Dragan Blatnjak (Khimki), Anton Amelchenko (FC Moscow)
Key departures: Roman Gerus (free agent)
Prediction: 15th


Krylia Sovetov Samara

Krylia Sovetov Samara are not particularly well known outside of the former USSR, and perhaps this is even true to some extent within Russia itself. The club itself has two major sections, hockey and football. Whilst at hockey Krylia were amongst the best in the entire Soviet Union, at football they have struggled to retain their place amongst the top 16 in the land.

Last season saw Krylia finish tenth, and that was considered a very good return, especially when taking into account the real lack of quality within the squad. The club have around 45 players on their books, and that almost all of them have a chance of featuring perhaps says all that is needed about a real lack of talent.

Key arrivals: None (the team were saved from financial trouble two weeks ago)
Key departures: Evgeniy Pesegov (Nizhny Novgorod), Roman Shishkin (Spartak Moscow), Silva Leilton (loan return)
Prediction: 10th

Lokomotiv Moscow

Perhaps the most controversial team of all has managed to achieve one thing of note, and that’s keeping Yuri Semin in the dugout. The coach admits that the previous season was dogged by administrative issues that needed to be solved to help the club move forward.

Semin let 13 players go over the winter, bringing in just five, and will be hoping that 2010 is a year free of injuries that will allow Lokomotiv to reach their target of a top three finish. The coach accepts that Lokomotiv are up against it however, with strong rivals, and says the path to success is "to settle in [the] European spots for a couple of years to at least gain experience and be able to beat our rivals [when they play at our] home ground".

Key arrivals: Alexander Aliev (Dynamo Kyiv), Dos Santos Wagner (Cruzeiro), Dmitry Tarasov (FC Moscow)
Key departures: Roman Kanzedalov (Spartak Nalchik), Ivan Levenez (free agent), Razvan Kocish (free agent)
Prediction: 6th

Rubin Kazan

Much has been said and written about Rubin Kazan, the ambitious Russian champions. Back-to-back titles are indeed a great achievement and even all the greater as there has not been massive investment.

2010 sees Rubin once again looking forward to European football, first with continued involvement in the Europa League and then with the Champions League once again. To that end they have signed several players whose primary duty will be to strengthen the club’s defensive line. Coach Kurban Berdyev has stated that: "The club have enough attacking power, but in the Europa League we have to make sure our own goalkeeper is protected more than score three or five times a game."

Key arrivals: Ilie Cebanu (Wisla Krakow), Jordi Figares (Celta), Mischenko Mihail, Mihail Badyautdinov (Rubin-2), Bahodyr Nasimov (Dynamo Samarkand),
Key departures: Alexei Popov (Amkar Perm)
Prediction: 1st

Saturn Ramenskoe

Finishing sixth last season, Saturn, a club almost from nowhere, turned into a force that could beat many of the established big boys: However, they still have some way to go to be accepted as a serious player. Saturn have a well built and settled squad lacking in first-class stars, but do what all professional footballers should, and that is play to win.

Coach Andrei Gordeev is amongst a minority of managers in that he always openly praises his men and says he is proud of his team. The atmosphere at the club is friendly, and the team have all they need, no more, no less. Occasionally the club’s owners can afford to purchase some players of note, but even so Saturn don’t have sky high ambitions and the Europa League zone would seem a suitable target.

Key arrivals: Denis Bojarntsev (Spartak Moscow), Martin Jakubko (FC Moscow), Dmitri Kudryashov (Luch-Energija), Alexey Botvinjev (Kuban Krasnodar)
Key departures: None as last season part of the club was made up of Saturn-2 team.
Prediction: 7th

Sibir Novosibirsk

The presence of Sibir Novosibirsk in the Premier League is indeed a surprise. The club from this far away city has never shown anything spectacular and according to coach Igor Kriushenko have not set survival as their goal.

The coach may just be playing down expectations at Sibir, but if Anzhi and Alania have more to prove to others than themselves, then the opposite is true for the club from Novosibirsk.

Key arrivals: Alexander Degtyarev, Alexander Makarenko, Mantas Savenas
Key departures: Timur Bgautdinov (Tumen)
Prediction: 16th

Spartak Moscow

The former all dominant power were less observed in the press than Rubin Kazan, CSKA Moscow or Lokomotiv Moscow in the off-season, but nevertheless they are due much praise for their work last year. Valery Karpin and Oleg Romantsev managed to fix what was a broken machine mid-season and quite unexpectedly secured a second place finish, only falling out of the title race itself with two games to go.

Spartak will be hopeful the continued collaboration between Karpin and Romantsev will set the club back on the path to glory. Karpin has though chosen a difficult path, choosing to use as many young players as possible but is in it for the long haul. The former Russia international explained: "I came to be at the wheel of the team and only when it’s clear I cannot progress will we invite a foreigner to replace me."

Key arrivals: Cristian Maidana (Banfield) , Anton Hodyrev, Igor Kireev (both from Spartak-2), Dmitri Homich (Spartak Nalchik)
Key departures: Alexei Popov (Amkar Perm)
Prediction: 2nd

Spartak Nalchik

Spartak Nalchik’s two major players last year, Roman Konzedalov and Dimitry Homlich, have left the club. Their eleventh place finish last season was too close to the drop zone for comfort and Nalchik are focused on a better showing this time around.

Promised new signings are expected to help in what is certain to be a hard slog, and beyond their arrival there is little to be positive about. Fans simply hope there will be worse teams in the Premier League this year.

Key arrivals: Aslan Dyshekov (Stavropol), expected to be signed Dusan Djokic (Club Brugge)
Key departures: Roman Kanzedalov (Lokomotiv Moscow), Oleg Samsonov (Zenit St. Peterburg), Dejan Radic (Rostov)
Prediction: 13th

Terek Grozny

When Terek Grozny finished in twelfth last season and stayed in the Premier League it owed more to luck than much else. Terek had managed to lose their last five matches in a row and it was only the poor performances of those below them that helped them to survive.

New coach Anatoly Baidachnyi does not have the means to bring in all the players he would wish. Coming from war-torn Chechnya, Terek gain respect wherever they go, and at home their games are greeted with joy, as for most people football is their only pleasure.

Key arrivals: Juan Carlos Arce (Sport Recife), Mauricio (Fluminese), Ugo Bajes (loan from CSKA Sofia)
Key departures: Sergei Bendz, Fabricio Kabral, Lika Iliion, Radoslav Zabavnik (all free agents)
Prediction: 14th

Tom Tomsk

One of the most surprising achievements of last season’s Premier League was the presence of Tom Tomsk in ninth. Tomsk are another Siberian club with more to prove to themselves than to anyone else.

The key figure at the club is coach Valery Nepomnyaschiy, a renowned and respected manager who has many years of experience working with young players. In Tomsk, Nepomnyaschiy is a popular personality and the players look upon him as a father figure. Whether this parental attitude can manage a higher finish than ninth remains to be seen.

Key arrivals: Sergei Kovalchuk (Spartak Moscow), Kim Nam Il (Vissel Kobe), Shin Jung (Bursaspor), Georgi Gioev (Kuban Krasnodar)
Key departures: Artem Dzjuba (Spartak Moscow), Vladimir Dyadun (Rubin Kazan), Alexander Radoslavlevich (free agent)
Prediction: 9th

Zenit St. Petersburg

The 2008 UEFA Cup winners are in a period of transition. The squad which conquered Europe and won the Russian title is history: Anatoly Tymoschuk, Andrei Arshavin, Pavel Pogrebnyak, Mateja Kezman, Fatih Tekke, Igor Semshov and coach Dick Advocaat are all gone. Now new coach Luciano Spalletti must rebuild.

Replacements for the departed stars will not surely be adequate and scaling the heights of Europe is a distant dream at present. The ex-Roma tactician must form a new team, with a new attitude, but also he must manage a decline, since Zenit are not the giants they once were. The club’s fans must hope Spalletti has a secret approach up his sleeve to transform the team and bring a new wave of success to St. Petersburg.

Key arrivals: Danko Lazovic (PSV Eindhoven), Michael Lumb (Aarhus), Alexander Kerzhakov (Dynamo Moscow), Yuri Zhevnov (FC Moscow)
Key departures: None
Prediction: 4th


  Latest Features: