Runaway Lokomotiv anxious to stay on Russian title track

Jefferson Farfan has dashed back to Russia to appear for Lokomotiv Moscow after playing for Peru against Iceland in the United States
AFP

Moscow (AFP) – Leaders Lokomotiv Moscow are taking nothing for granted before looking to extend a nine-match unbeaten run when they visit lowly Amkar Perm in the Russian League on Saturday.

Despite boasting a five-point margin over city rivals Spartak and with a game in hand, coach Yury Semin remains anxious having welcomed 10 of his players back from international duty in recent days.

Semin told the Sport Express daily: “It will be very inconvenient for us to play on Saturday.

“A group of 10 our players came back from their national sides just before the match, while Jefferson Farfan and Vedran Corluka flew back to Moscow from the United States. 

“Clubs often experience problems after the international break. We have to be very careful on Saturday if we are to avoid dropping points needlessly.”

On paper, Lokomotiv are clear favourites. Amkar, winless in their last 10 league games, sit second from bottom.

Yet Semin has reason for concern. Only five points adrift, closest rivals and defending league champions Spartak have won seven of their last eight Premier League matches and are firm favourites to take all three points against struggling Tosno on Saturday.

Promoted Tosno sit just one point above the relegation zone, but Spartak’s Italian boss Massimo Carrera says there can be no room for complacency.

“We dropped points earlier this season when we faced Tosno, which ended in a 2-2 draw,” he told Spartak’s official site.

“And we can’t repeat the same mistakes if we want to retain our title. We’re not looking too far ahead. We need to take each match as it comes and try to win it.”

Another Moscow-based club completes the top three, with free-scoring CSKA looking to stay in the title fight with a win at strugglers Rostov on Sunday.

The Red Army side beat French side Lyon 3-1 away to advance to the quarter-finals of the Europa League and followed that win with a 3-0 away defeat of Akhmat Grozny.

For Brazilian midfielder Vitinho, securing a place in next season’s Champions League remains a top priority.

“We need to extend this series,” said  Vitinho.

“We have to focus on our own performances and concentrate on our remaining games to stay in the race for the title and to secure a place in the next season’s Champions League.” 

Fixtures (all times GMT)

Saturday

Amkar Perm v Lokomotiv Moscow (1100), Akhmat Grozny v SKA Khabarovsk (1100), Dynamo Moscow v Arsenal Tula (1330), Spartak Moscow v Tosno (1600)

Sunday

Ural Yekaterinburg v Rubin Kazan (1100), Ufa v Zenit St Petersburg (1330), Krasnodar v Anzhi Makhachkala (1600), Rostov v CSKA Moscow (1600)

.