Latics looking to stem Russians’ Europa goal spree
Wigan Athletic’s next Europa League opponents Rubin Kazan have an impressive track record in European football and will be the favourites at the DW Stadium on Thursday night. Since first qualifying for Europe in 2004 Rubin have featured regularly in European football competitions, and are currently 24th in the UEFA rankings.
October 23rd, 2013
They have taken six points and scored nine goals from their first two Group D games. They have now won nine successive fixtures in Europe since losing 3-1 at Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the competition last season.
The club only entered the Russian top flight in 2003, but has remained there ever since, winning the title in 2008 and 2009 and the Russian Cup in 2012.
In European competition Rubin have an excellent home record of 22 games unbeaten and will be formidable opponents. They have dispatched the other two teams in the group with relative ease; NK Maribor 5-2 away and Zulte Waregem 4-0 at home. The Latics have taken four points from the first two Europa games having drawn 0-0 at Zulte Waregem and defeated NK Maribor 3-1 at home.
The Russians have quality in depth. Roman Eremenko is a creative midfielder and is regarded by some as their best player, having previously played at Dynamo Kiev and earning 55 caps for his country, Finland. He is rivalled by the Israeli international midfielder Bibras Natcho, who has been referred to as the ‘best foreigner’ in the Russian league. He notably set up two of the goals and scored a delightful free-kick in the 4-0 win over Zulte.
Yann M’Vila is a 23-year-old defensive midfielder who has already won 22 caps for France. He was previously a target for Arsenal, Spurs and QPR but was signed by Rubin for £9.6m. He is a powerful character who is capable of anchoring the centre of the park or playing in a more adventurous box-to-box role, utilising his physical strength.
Fortunately for the Latics, Rubin’s in form striker José Rondón broke a bone in his foot in late September and is likely to be ruled out until December. It is a significant blow to the team as the Venezuelan international had scored eight goals in his previous seven outings for club and country.
The Rubin coach, Kurban Berdyev, is one of the longest-serving coaches in Europe, having been in charge since 2001. He has an excellent record, leading the club into the top division in 2003, winning league titles and becoming regulars in Europe. Berdyev is a religious and private man who rarely gives interviews and was decorated in 2012 by the Russian Federation with the Order of Friendship Medal. The team’s former right-back Roman Sharonov has famously said of his coach:
“If I thought about football as much as him, I would probably lose my mind”.
It is therefore unlikely that Berdyev will underestimate Wigan, and will have researched his opponents in detail and sought out potential weaknesses.
Wigan manager Owen Coyle rarely has a settled team and he is once again likely to make changes to the starting line-up against Rubin. They will be without star man Shaun Maloney but strikers Grant Holt and Marc-Antoine Fortune are available for selection after injury.
Latics’ poor away form, without an away win in seven games, has meant that the club has slipped to 13th in the Championship table.
Both teams enter the game after disappointing games at the weekend; with Rubin having lost 2-1 at Volga and Wigan losing 1-0 at Blackpool.
The FA Cup holders are currently undefeated at home and a win would take them to the top of the Group D table; however, Rubin should provide the stiffest test yet.
Photograph of Rubin Kazan versus Spartak Moscow