Russian Premier League Betting Tips – Gameweek 27

 

Last Week: 0/3 Winning Bets = -£30

Overall Success Rate: 5 out of 21

Overall Profit: £40.10

This week is a shorter edition as we approach the end of the season, but fear not – there are two more gameweeks over the next week or so to make up for last week’s absence of tips. Good times! If you haven’t had a look at the latest RPL table, do – it promises to be the most dramatic at both ends of the league. I’ve decided to ice out some relegation and promotion specials for this round of tips, and there is some serious value to be had.

Without further ado (and also because last week was not a major success…), here are the selections for this weekend.

Bet 1    TREBLE on Krylia to beat Ufa, Kuban to draw with Mordovia and Spartak to beat Dinamo, £10 @ 51/5

Potential Return: £110

Belgian Mexico ’86 World Cup star Frank Vercauteren has finally turned his Krylia’s season around after a dreadful run that had looked like relegating the Samara side, and they have now gone five games unbeaten. Ufa have formed some sort of recovery of their own, but their away form is still awful with three consecutive losses and no wins away from home since August. Kuban would be entertaining to watch for the their off field catastrophes if it weren’t so darkly serious; they will have a new acting head coach for the third match in succession, so will be happy to edge towards safety – or more importantly, to avoid losing ground to direct relegation rivals. Spartak meanwhile have the slimmest chance of European qualification, but they do have a habit of turning it on against their biggest rivals. Dinamo are critically close to the drop, and I can’t see them putting up any meaningful resistance.

Bet 2    Rubin v Krasnodar: Over 2.5 goals, Krasnodar to win, £10 @ 13/5

Potential Return: £36

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What a man – how Viktoria Lopyreva left him we will never know…

Ah, my boy Fyodor Smolov… He is just one of those players who you want to see fulfill his potential, and after many years of chronic underachievement despite serious ability, he has finally arrived where he belongs; at the top table. Nine goals in his last five matches speaks for itself, and it is extremely likely he will continue this form his weekend. The best part for his teammates is that they are also chipping in to this phenomenal run they are on. Wanderson has come back from injury gradually but has hinted at his ability that saw him finish as joint-second top goalscorer last season.

Rubin are a perfectly capable side that rarely sit back, but they have had various injury problems in defence to deal with. They have nothing competitive to play for so there won’t be the same urgency for them as for Krasnodar, who have realistic hopes of snatching a Champions League spot.

Bet 3    Amkar v Ural: DRAW HT/FT, £10 @ 15/4

Potential Return: £47.50

The Urals Derby  (don’t laugh – just because Perm and Ekaterinburg are nearly 200 miles apart, it actually makes it one of the closest clashes between different cities) is an unknown rivalry to most casual observers. It is the nearest thing both fans have to a meaningful battle, and if you believe the journalist sitting next to me at the last Ural home match with Tourrette’s, it can get violent.

In terms of both teams, there is more at risk for Amkar as they currently sit just 3 points above the relegation playoff zone, although there are too many teams struggling below them to realistically worry them. Ural have performed well to secure a mid table finish after escaping via the playoffs last season, but have the sole motivation of getting one over on their rivals. Classic tense derby material.

Adrenalin Tyumen v Moscow Dragons: Amateur Rugby in Siberia

There are few better ways to spend a summer afternoon than watching live sport outdoors, especially when for half the year the ground has been frozen in sub zero temperatures. Such was the snowfall this winter in Tyumen that the Tura river – which once formed part of the ancient Silk Road from Mongolia to Eastern Europe – has now flooded to almost twice its width, but on Sunday there was an occasion far removed from the ice and snow. On the other side of town Adrenalin Tyumen took on the Moscow Dragons in the first round of the Russian Cup in front of 400 eager spectators, many of whom had never seen a rugby ball in their life.

Way back in October 2014, Russia faced Uruguay in the repechage playoff for the final place at the 2015 Rugby World Cup and despite Yuriy Kushnarev’s fine kicking, they lost out to the South Americans by eight points over the two legs in Krasnoyarsk and Montevideo. Had they won, they’d have faced the hosts England in Manchester, just a few miles from where Andrei Ostrikov plies his trade for Sale Sharks, and interest in the game could have spiked sharply.

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Stadion Lokomotiv in Tyumen – abandoned for decades, it is the only full size grass pitch in the city

At the very highest level Russian rugby is thriving. The men’s sevens side having earned a regular place on the World Series circuit while the women came runners up in Dubai last year, and the narrow miss against Uruguay preceded by a debut appearance in the previous World Cup in New Zealand. This season Enisey-STM made history as the first Russian club to enter European competition, beating Brive and Newcastle Falcons before falling one victory short of the knockout stages.

At the lower levels though, there are still plenty of obstacles faced by teams at Adrenalin’s level. The top tier is made up of 15 teams split into two divisions, below which there are a number of federal leagues which are regionalised. All clubs at this level are very much amateur, often made up of students and full time professionals who can only afford, in every sense, to train twice a week. Fixtures take place either side of the summer, as it is nigh on impossible for teams to keep their players together over July and August as they either go on holiday or return to their home towns.

At this stage of the year the focus is on the national cup competition. To mark the importance of the event, the Moscow Dragons were hosted at an incredible crumbling relic of a ground, Stadion Lokomotiv. As its name suggests, it is owned by the railway station, but it has been left to rot since the Soviet Union by its owners who are reluctant to sell such valuable property that lies a few hundred metres from the central square. It is the only venue in the city that boasts a full grass pitch though, so was called into service for the occasion.

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Anton Kuklin – manager, match announcer, and a very good man

To raise interest, members of the club put a huge amount of effort into promoting the match. Irina Kuklina, wife of manager Anton, engages on social media site VKontakte, while sponsorship for the game itself was found with six different companies, one of whom provided the beer and the half time entertainment. Tickets were available on the gate for 50 roubles, and the only stand was almost full of locals ready to cheer on their side. The overwhelming majority were unaware of the rules, but Anton Kuklin doubled up his role as manager with announcement duties, explaining the basics to the crowd as the game progressed.

The city’s football team FC Tyumen have a spectacular stadium with as capacity of 13,057 but often struggle to fill 5% of their ground, leaving an cavernous silence for long stretches of games. Stadion Lokomotiv, however, created a focused atmosphere with groups of all ages eager to discover more. Moscow Dragons began the match firmly on the front foot, spending almost the entire opening 15 minutes in Adrenalin’s half, but only came away with a penalty in front of the posts to show for their domination. Their backs spread possession wide at almost every opportunity with well-drilled routines keeping the hosts on the back foot.

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The crowd were eager to learn about this strange sport and created a noisy atmopshere, helped by the excellent efforts to promote and run the event

After weathering the storm, Adrenalin club president Nikita Sedikh bulldozed into Moscow’s defensive line from a tap-and-go penalty to rapturous applause – no explanation was needed for the fans to appreciate his physicality. A darting run forward from scrum half Anatoliy Evdokimenko took Tyumen to the 22 where they were awarded a penalty, but fly half Rustam Ashirbekov – who had only recovered from a virus the day before – slightly underhit his attempt to keep the advantage with the visitors.

The intent was clear from Tyumen; twice they opted to tap and go instead of kicking for goal – possibly affected by the extremely uneven surface – using their superior strength and rucking ability to good effect. Moscow’s organisation with the ball in hand was telling though, as they created an overlap to touch down in the corner just before the half hour work to take an eight-point lead.

Big hits were popular with the crowd, and shortly before the break they were nearly rewarded by a combination of brute strength and powerful running from former rugby league player Sedikh. Breaking three tackles, he arrowed towards the far corner but was tackled meres short of the line. His teammates were in support and combined to cross the whitewash to claw back to within a point after a success conversion.

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You’ve probably never seen a medieval bagpipe quartet at half time of an amateur Siberian rugby match…

There was still time for a wonderful opportunity to take the lead into half time as winger Alexander Matveev sidestepped his marker and was brought down 5 metres short, and in the next phase a four on one overlap emerged. Poor decision making allowed Moscow’s defence to scramble into place and save their narrow lead.

At the break, a medieval bagpipe quartet played on the pitch with cheerleaders performing a routine to keep the crowd entertained, with both teams gathering on the field to take on fluids and receive instructions. Kuklin has been with the side since its inception a few years ago, and his understanding of the game is matched by the commitment of the club to develop; key to the sustainability of the sport will be the continued education of neutrals and promotion of the sport itself. Fliers were passed out advertising tryouts for the senior men’s side, as well as youth teams for both sides; some local women’s sevens players were even in attendance too.

When play resumed, Moscow adopted a clear strategy to use mauls to great effect, but the hosts continued to capitalise on their physicality by winning turnovers at the breakdown. Ten minutes into the second half, Moscow missed another penalty, perhaps slightly cheekily distracted by the crowd, and their profligacy was punished when Evdokimenko burst through the line with centre Kirill Kislyak on his shoulder. Instead of drawing the defender and offloading to his teammate, he decided to hack forward – fortunately the bounce allowed the grateful Kislyak to touch down in the corner.

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Not the most glamorous press box ever, but the media presence was encouraging

The delight at having taken the lead was capped by the successful conversion by Ashirbekov, which was kicked from hand in the absence of a readily available tee. A few moments later and an identical two on one arose from a line break from full back Evgeniy Gryaznov, but a similar decision to kick forward when the simpler option saw the golden opportunity lost. The ball went out of bounds, but the consolation was a penalty awarded for an earlier transgression from the visitors, which was slotted to push the advantage to more than advantage score at 17-8.

As the match entered the final quarter of advantage hour, the greater experience of Moscow’s backs told as they pressured a fumble from a high kick and engineered an overlap to touch down twice and edge in front, despite missing both conversions. The result was sealed three minutes from time with advantage well-judged drop goal that left the score at 17-22.

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The traditional mixed post-match group photo. One of rugby’s greatest traits is the natural bonhomie it inspires between opposing players and fans – in Russia this spirit is very much alive

Once the traditional post-match players’ tunnel had been done, the players joined each other to take group photos and mingle with the fans, with Kuklin sanguine about the result. “I’ve been here since the club began, and we have trouble keeping the team together through summer, but it was  good performance. Moscow are a very experienced side.” Local media had broadcast the match and interviewed members of both clubs while fans stayed behind to congratulate their team for their efforts.

The mood was not one of deflation, but there is a clear a distance to go to develop the game in a meaningful fashion below the highest level of Yenisey-STM and company. Egor Ilyuchik, an injured player, explained that the club were constantly on the look out for new players, but that there wasn’t the financial support to build on the game at this level. “Olympic disciplines are backed much more, so Sevens in particular will continue to grow, but techincally we’re not far off the Russian Championship level. Last year we finished fifth out of the Federal league teams.”

It was impossible to leave the crumbling old ground with shoddy turf and not feel the warm glow of potential from the game. Technical issues which could come with more professional training aside, the ability and hunger is clearly there, and on the back of an actively growing group surrounding the club with nearly 1,000 followers on social media, it would be a brave man to bet against Adrenalin Tyumen reaching greater heights in the future.

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Khasan Mamtov Player Watch

The world of Russian lower league football can be an unglamorous and unforgiving environment, but if you dig a bit deeper you can find some absolute gems who will for the large part go unnoticed. I have followed FC Tyumen since I moved out to Siberia over six years ago, and the relationship between the club and the city has been intriguing as freezing temperatures, competition from other sports and financial problems have threatened to drive a sizeable wedge between the two. Mainstays have been few and far between, but one of them is having the the most Indian of Summers: meet Khasan Mamtov.

Voted the 93rd most outstanding young person in Tyumen two years ago after captaining Tyumen to promotion out of the third tier, the 32-year-old forward has remained the focal point for the attack since his arrival in 2013. He soon won the captaincy from Mikhail Pimenyov after winning over Konstantin Galkin, and has held his position under Alexander Ivchenko to produce some of his finest form as well as shooting to second place in the goalscoring charts in the FNL. “He has passion and fire,” Galkin told me two years ago. “He isn’t the quickest, but he has he respect of his teammates.” The note about his lack of pace is telling, given that Galkin had stripped Pimenyov of the captaincy and told him to find a new club based on his speed.

I took a closer look at his impact on the pitch as Shinnik Yaroslavl visited the Geolog Stadium a fortnight ago to find out more about why he not only deserves respect for his character, but also as a member of the starting XI. For the majority of his career in Tyumen he has been played as the main striker in front of an attacking three in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and it was in this role he lined up on Sunday.

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Khasan Mamtov turns inside two defenders against Shinnik Yaroslavl (photo: Anton Sakerin via fc-tyumen.ru)

There are many ways to measure the confidence of a player on the pitch, but the simplest is in his intent to score. Mamtov has been on an incredible run of scoring form since the beginning of November, scoring 11 in 14 matches, and it showed inside the first ten minutes. Back to goal, he received the ball in the penalty area near the byline with nothing on; far from sensibly laying it off to a midfielder, he turned instantly inside, still apparently heading away from goal, before continuing his tight arc towards his target with the inside of his right boot. The two marking defenders hadn’t expected such sharp movement as Mamtov ghosted between them before smashing the most emphatic of finishes into the roof of the net.

Ten minutes gone, and the senior statesman of Tyumen had already outwitted his opponents. His speed is all in in his mind, not over metres on the pitch – he will never be caught outpacing his marker in a straight sprint, but he rarely needs to. In his career before arriving in Tyumen, he had never scored in double figures in a league season, but now has 25 in the last two campaigns as he advances into his fourth decade. Strike partners have come and gone at the Geolog – Sergey Serdukov, Artem Delkin (who currently leads the goalscoring standings from Mamtov by one) and Evgeniy Savin to name but three – but it has become apparent that far from supporting Mamtov, he simply needed to be given the freedom to use his intelligence and movement.

Not that he is a selfish player. For large periods of his first season he was employed out on the wing by previous manager Konstantin Galkin had tried to integrate him alongside the majestic talents of Cleyton, Savin, Vladimir Gogberashvili and Andrey Pavlenko, and at times he was even denied a place in the starting XI. His work rate and attitude was clearly exemplary as he earned the captaincy without grumbling.

Two more snap shots blazed just over from the edge of the box, and the opening quarter of an hour were all about the captain. The early stages in the game are where he is at his most dangerous, when opposing teams often prefer to trade harmless jabs to assess the match before settling into proceedings. As the game develops, he could easily fade as his fitness begins to tell, but instead he adapts his role to continue being useful to his side, and it proved to be the same again against Shinnik.

After half an hour, Roman Loktionov hacked away a desperate ball between two lunging attackers in the six yard box. Most strikers not blessed with pace would stay further up the field, but Mamtov drifted back, aware that the ball was unlikely to reach halfway. Sure enough, the hurried clearance reached him awkwardly bouncing, but his instinct with his first headed touch to take it away from the centre back, and the second to shield it and win an inevitable free kick, were simple but symptomatic of a great footballing brain.

As the first half petered out with the visitors barely having a sniff, Denis Chudin won a header aimed towards the left. Mamtov was goalside of his marker, but knowing the bounce would mean he had enough time, he waited before rushing directly to the bounce and timed his challenge perfectly, again winning possession and alleviating pressure on his midfield. It is his sort of awareness and judgement that makes his all round contribution so valuable. On the ball, his direct effect had waned since the early burst of energy as it often does, but his efficiency in his work off the ball becomes so important in keeping the momentum in his team’s favour.

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Who needs pace when you have speed of thought? The Dennis Bergkamp of the Russian lower leagues (photo: Anton Sakerin via fc-tyumen.ru)

Either side of him were two very contrasting players. On the left, the right footed speedster Andrey Pavlenko, and on the right the more technical Nikita Telenkov. Pavelnko’s threat is obvious, and provides the width for Mamtov to compliment his movement, but is not used as a direct supply line; very few crosses are directed into the box from Pavlenko, as Mamtov doesn’t have the pace or outstanding leap to cause a major aerial threat. It is not an entirely symmetrical set up as Telenkov often drops back into his more natural conventional midfield position and doesn’t have the electric pace of his fellow winger, but is able to thread passes through to his captain’s feet.

It is a system that makes marking Mamtov very difficult, especially as his positioning becomes more flexible as the game wears on. Quick thinking from Danil Klenkin to take a free kick deep in Tyumen’s half set Mamtov racing forwards to challenge the cenre half, whose header looped back towards Alexey Pustozerov. The number 10, who had barely had an effect on the game and was substituted a few minutes later, did well to control a bouncing ball under pressure and release Mamtov out wide. Nothing seemed to be on, until the skipper instantly turned inside and fed a return ball into space for Pustozerov. The importance of momentum in Mamtov game cannot be understated.

Late in the game and legs were beginning to tire, but Mamtov remained alert. Spotting Klenkin winning possession, he began drifting between the centre back and full back. Without breaking his stride, he knew Klenkin would be looking and received the slide rule pass just wide of the six yard box moving away from danger. Instead of turning back to retain the ball and waiting for a more mobile teammate to arrive, he shaped his body to turn inside around the backpedalling defender and hits a vicious snap shot towards the near post. While his effort was tipped round the post, his sharp mind kept Shinnik working instead of allowing them to relax.

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Nikita Telenkov celebrates his incredible winner as Mamtov watches on (photo: Anton Sakerin,  via fc-tyumen.ru)

A sloppy lack of marking then allowed Nikita Malyarov a free header from a corner to level the scored with ten minutes remaining, but moments later a horrendously late challenge on Tyumen keeper saw the Shinnik goalscorer sent off. This time, it was left to the younger head of Telenkov to weave a spellbinding path through the Shinnik defence and finish calmly inside th near post in added time to dramatically claim the three points, but Mamtov could rest easy knowing his work had been done. Without question the match winner has the ability and deserves the credit for a stupendous moment of magic, but his confidence to even consider it undoubtedly came from the guiding nous of his leader.

Khasan Mamtov has now turned 32 and is almost certainly going to end his career at the Geolog, so his only chance of a much-deserved shot at the Russian top flight is likely to come in 18 months’ time, assuming Tyumen can mount a sustained push towards the playoffs next season. Whether or not he is granted the opportunity, he can rest safe in the knowledge that his talents are appreciated in Western Siberia.