Zenit St Petersburg and CSKA Moscow look to extend winning ways in Russia
Moscow: Russian leaders CSKA Moscow and Zenit St Petersburg will strive to extend their winning streaks when the Premiership`s fourth round of matches are played at the weekend.
With their 1-0 win on Wednesday over Terek Grozny, defending champions CSKA set a new Premiership record of 13 wins in a row -- taking into consideration their 10-match winning streak last season, which carried them to their fifth national title.
The Red Army side will try to maintain their perfect record on Sunday in the Moscow derby against their old foes Spartak despite being weakened by injuries.
CSKA are missing a number of the club`s first-line footballers, and their troubles worsened on Wednesday when their Ivory Coast marksman Seydou Doumbia, last season`s league top scorer with 18 goals, injured a hip muscle and will be out for at least three weeks.
Matches between CSKA and Spartak are a perennial headache for Moscow police as the two clubs` supporters are famous for their mutual hatred and mass brawls between the fans are a regular occurance.
Red Army coach Leonid Slutsky expressed hope that recently-signed Israeli international midfielder Bibras Natkho will help his team to solve the problems in midfield despite his lack of form.
"Natkho is a skilled and experienced player and that was the main reason for us to sign him," Slutsky said.
"But he experiences certain fitness problems as the last three months he has been practicing individually.
"Hopefully he will be in-form for the match with Spartak."
Meanwhile, Spartak`s striker Artem Dzyuba, who has scored four goals in his side`s opening two Premiership matches, is now uncertain for Sunday`s derby after experiencing serious muscle problems during Thursday`s match with FC Krasnodar.
Last season`s runners-up Zenit St Petersburg, who have already served one of their two-match stadium ban, take on promoted Ufa at an empty Petrovsky stadium on Saturday.
Zenit, who have won four of their last matches with an impressive 17-2 goal difference (4-0 win over Arsenal Tula, a 8-1 rout of Torpedo Moscow and a 2-1 win at Ural Yekaterinburg in the Premiership, and a 3-0 win over Cyprus outfit AEL in a Champions league qualifier), will unlikely experience troubles against one of the league`s underdogs.
Saint Petersburg head coach Andre Villas-Boas said that he believed the lack of emotions and fans` support in a match behind the closed doors is not ideal.
"It wasn`t easy at all to play in an empty stadium," the former Porto, Chelsea and Tottenham manager said.
"Last week it was the first time I`ve ever coached in an empty stadium and I had a really strange feeling.
"You never have your normal motivation when there are no fans, no emotions, no sound that follows the regular league games. So I`d like to say thanks to all my players, who performed at their top in these unusual conditions.
"The empty stands will be a problem but hopefully we`ll be able to do it again on Saturday."
Ural Yekaterinburg v Torpedo Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg v Ufa
CSKA Moscow v Spartak Moscow, Arsenal Tula v Dynamo Moscow, Rubin Kazan v Lokomotiv Moscow, Rostov v FC Krasnodar
Terek Grozny v Mordovia Saransk, Kuban Krasnodar v Amkar Perm