If we’d been given the permutation that would leave two clubs fighting for the title on the last day and five clubs in danger of relegation, you’d have gotten the same odds as Leicester City winning in England, though there are no ex-Mapei “specialists” involved here.
Two points cover the bottom five clubs and along with drama queens Mordovia Saransk, Anzhi Makhachkala and Kuban Krasnodar, the solid FC Ufa are in a fight for survival, along with legendary club Dynamo Moscow – who according to AP and the Daily Mail are leading the Russian Premier League table.
All European places have been settled from the last round of games with Lokomotiv Moscow’s promising season flummoxing to a fail as they end, they hope in 6th place. With a late surge the self-titled “People’s Club”, aka the Kingdom of Fedun, are “happy” with fifth place.
This according to owner Leonid Fedun who made unseemly remarks about a single foreign player at his club earning more than the Reserve Team (who play a division down in the FNL) combined.
Head coach Dmitri Alenichev looks to be in danger of being shafted in the summer, as he once shafted Aleksandrs Starkovs his former manager.
With all the money spent and selling out of his own players, Dmitri has little respect amongst fans and players. And with their new stadium continuing to conspire to lose money, this could be the year where Mr. Fedun pulls the plug.
Above them in fourth lie another club with Sugar Daddy issues, FC Krasnodar. Owner Sergey Galitsky continues to build his empire in the south and his club look likely to be the #1 club in Krasnodar should Kuban’s troubles continue.
He will be expecting a proper title push next season and braver exploits in Europe.
The Russian Premier League’s third placed side, Zenit St. Petersburg, won the Cup but lost their league title. UEFA Champions League constants since 2010, their performances in the UCL last season were remarkable given the player-coach turmoil in the club.
Andre Villas-Boas would have liked to have retained the League, though he leaves having moved the club on a level.
The excellent behind the scenes staff in the club will make sure the club get through the loss of UCL income and they’ll be favourites to win the Europa League, their second European trophy after 2008s UEFA Cup.
Second placed FC Rostov, Russia’s Leicester City, though with more drug testing, are two points behind CSKA Moscow and are away to Terek Grozny.
Terek Grozny were a disappointment this season, promising lots and yet failing in spring. Club headman and Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov needs to assess what he wants from the club.
Apart from some unsavoury fan incidents, the club have everything set to be a powerhouse in Russian football.
Yet the club, as profiled here, are seriously underachieving. Ramzan needs to get a new head coach in who will immediately have the respect of players, fans, club officials and most importantly – Ramzan.
There is only one person in world football who can do that and he will make Terek a top five club.
Former Rubin Kazan coach, Kurban Berdyev, will leave nothing to chance and with UCL football assured next season, Rostov can go all out to win.
CSKA travel to mid-table Berdyev’s former side Rubin and the Rostov coach will hope the club he helped build will do him a favour.
Their coach Leonid Slutsky has promised that national team matters can wait, though with less than a month to go until he leads Russia to France, some are asking questions.
Leonid has done well to recover from a post-New Year hangover and a draw should be enough to see CSKA lift their third Russian Premier League title in four seasons.
This year’s “odd” side are St. Patrick’s Athletic victims Krylia Sovetov Samara. The Volga-based club are well-drilled and organised, but scored only 19 goals in their 29 league games.
They’ve financial issues also and are happy just to have seen the season out.
So two of five are going down automatically and two more will face two-legged play-offs against third and fourth from the Graveyard, FNL.
The Russian Premier League’s 13th placed club will travel south to tackle Volgar Astrakhan, while the 14th placed club will meet Siberian’s Tom Tomsk, yes, the same club who were ordering meldonium after the WADA ban was in force.
Anzhi will likely bounce back up despite their debts and will remain a yo-yo club until they harness some youngsters. Dynamo, well, letting baby Rotenberg go to Rostov may well haunt them.
They welcome Zenit in this weekend and there is a very good chance they’ll benefit from some largesse on the field. Anzhi are in Samara and should end up with a point.
Ufa have Spartak visiting and this should be a walkover, unless Alenichev does something terrible. So then it’s all down to Kuban who are out in Ekaterinaburg to play Ural, a club with nothing to play for, except money.
Most likely a point for Kuban means 100% safety.
For one of the better Russian Premier League seasons in my experience to come to an end fills me with a little bit of sadness.
I’ll go to see the battle between Mordovia and Lokomotiv. Mordovia, whose players were on strike last month, have it all to do and might get a bit of a backlash from the Railwaymen.
Should Saransk go down it looks like that they’ll have massive financial issues, not a good sign for a FIFA World Cup host city.
Though the place has bigger problems, like that of a totally inadequate airport and infrastructure – plus a severe lack of accommodation. Ufa will find it hard to return now that their Irish and Oil money has dried up.
Theirs could be a long stay in the Graveyard. 2015/16’s Russian Premier League is going to provide some last day drama, though what happens off the pitch might be just as important as what occurs on it.