Russian Premier League Betting Tips – Gameweek 20

Well that went well…

In my first betting tips post last week, all three of my suggestions went south, leaving me with the princely sum of -£30. In my defence, it was the lowest scoring gameweek of the season, with only 11 goals across the eight fixtures, despite many of the most potent attacks strengthened and some of the most pourous defences weakened. Take Spartak, for example: losing Serdar Tasci to Bayern Munich on loan meant Vladimir Granat had to step in, and although he is still a decent centre back, he has barely played his season after joining from Dinamo. Add Lorenzo Melgarejo to the league’s top scorer in Quincy Promes and the potential for goals at both ends was there, but a tight 1-0 defeat to CSKA was the result.

As for my specific tips themselves, Roman Shirokov failed to score in that game despite playing as the attacking central midfielder. Picking goalscorers is always a tough prediction, so failing to hit that one is hardly a disgrace. Zenit to win away at Krasnodar was influenced by the champions’ strong transfer market dealings, but in hindsight could have been adjusted to a draw as Krasnodar, despite their poor show in in the Europa League knockout stages against Sparta Prague, could at least point to not having had competitive practice all winter as a reason for their inglorious exit from continental competition. Ural v Dinamo was one of only three matches to produce two goals, but my tip was for over 1.5 goals in the first half only; both were after the break.

Without further ado, here are this week’s sure fire winners. Ahem…

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Bet 1 Friday 11 March & Saturday 12 March

Treble on Kuban to beat Krylia, Ural to beat Anzhi, Spartak to beat Amkar, £10 @ 6.46/1

Potential Return: £64.60

A good old fashioned treble is a good way for me to make some ground back on last week’s losses, and I think there is some amazing value in the odds that bet365.com are offering. This is the best part of Russian football betting – there is value if you look hard enough,  because the statistics alone seem to dictate the odds, much in the same way that the fellow who made millions from betting on Scottish football lower league’s used a touch of nous and bookies’ overly analytical approach to pricing teams years ago.

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Will play for crisps – Arshavin’s career has been in decline for a while, now he is no longer a burden to Kuban

Kuban are low down he league table, in the automatic relegation places to be precise, but they no longer have the Gary Lineker (bear with me on this one…) of Russian football hanging over them for one thing. Andrey Arshavin has decided to develop his dwindling career in Kazakhstan after only 6 months in the green and yellow of Kuban, and instead a raft of interesting buys like former Dortmund defender Felipe Santana and Apodi  (lightning quick Brazilian fullback) have boosted them somewhat. Ural have likewise reinforced, perhaps not quite as strongly as they would have liked, but still in Alexander Ryzyantsev they have experience and In Dmitry Korobov they have potentially unearthed a lower league diamond. Anzhi are inconsistent away from home with only two sides conceding more on their travels, so it should be a steal at 23/20 for that individual result. Spartak now have the top two goalscorers in the league in Lorenzo Melgarejo and Quincy Promes, facing a team that have scored the second lowest tally in the league, and only Rubin have lost more on the road. Win this one, and I’m back in the black…

Bet 2 Sunday 13 March, Zenit v Rubin

Over 3.5 total goals £10 @ 11/4

Potential Return: £37.50

Simply put, Zenit = goals. They are the top scorers at home with 19, and in total with 34, not to mention the fact that they’ll be hurting from their cruel Champions league exit to Benfica. Alexander Kokorin has a good chance of starting his first match for his new club, and with Hulk fit anything could happen. Rubin have a terrible away record on paper, and while this is mostly down to their early season catastrophe, they played two new signings in defence last week in Andriy Pylyavsky and Emil Bergstrom so could be susceptible again. Granted, they kept a clean sheet against Kuban, but that was at home; Zenit away is a whole different ball game.

Bet 3 Monday 14 March, Dinamo v Terek

Score draw £10 @ 9/2

Potential Return: £55

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Me with the Novouralsk Supporters Club – very knowledgeable chaps on English football

When I watched Dinamo against Ural on Monday in Ekaterinburg, they played an extremely attacking formation with two out and out strikers in Pavel Pogrebnyak and impressive new boy Fatos Beqiraj, with Alexander Tashaev and Alexey Ionov pushing right up to make a virtual 4-2-4. If they show similar intent at home against a notoriously defensive travelling outfit in Terek – who have drawn 6 of ten away matches, and have a dead level goals ratio of 11 for and 11 against – they stand a good chance of breaching their backline. While the visitors are serious European contenders, Dinamo have the very real incentive of an impending relegation battle to spur them on, but they have failed to score more than two at home in over a year.

Russian Premier League Betting Tips – Matchday 19

Remember Dennis Bergkamp’s sensational spinning goal against Newcastle about 15 years ago? The one where he made Nikos Dabizas look a little bit silly and himself a little bit special? I do, but not fondly. Much as he was a sublime player, the Dutchman cost me £345 by defying the laws of physics that day and screwing up my first ever bet, a 10-way accumulator. I couldn’t believe it was so easy to (almost) win money, and I was instantly hooked to a life violently swinging between drama and disappointment – personal highlights include winning £720 on a double of Manchester United to beat Inter Milan and Barcelona to beat Lyon.

Since moving out to Russia I have closed my online accounts in the name of being a sensible family man, but the bug is still there, so I have decided to start a weekly set of tips where I will give myself a ghost sum each week and keep track of my running total as a substitute. This week there are some cracking fixtures in the Russian Premier League, and I will post my tips for how to make some money from this vast land.

I will give myself £30 each week and see how much of a profit I can turn.

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Bet 1 Saturday 5 March , Krasnodar v Zenit St Petersburg

Zenit to win, Over 2.5 goals £10 @ 10/3

Potential Return: £43.33

Krasnodar are the hipster’s choice: they are owned by Sergey Galitskiy, the boss of Russia’s largest supermarket chain Magnit, who is the Daniel Levy of the RPL. They have moved smartly in the transfer market to snap up Vyacheslav Podberezkin – one of the brightest attacking talents in the country – and Stanislav Kritsyuk on loan as back up in goal. They boast the meanest defence at home, but they are up against the most formidable strike force in Russia.

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England will have to look out for this man, Artyom Dzyuba, in Marseille on 11 June

In Hulk they have russianfootballnews.com’s player of 2015, and in the summer they have added the ‘Russian Harry Kane/Andy Carroll/Peter Crouch’ (depending on your viewpoint) in Artyom Dzyuba. Add Oleg Shatov, a lightning quick former futsal inside forward, Alexander Kokorin and Danny, and it isn’t hard to see why they are the league’s top goalscorers this season. They have only failed to score away from home once since the summer, and while they haven’t won on the road since August they have the momentum of a successful transfer window, a Russian Cup win and impressive European form.

Bet 2 Sunday 6 March, CSKA Moscow v Spartak Moscow

Roman Shirokov to score anytime £10 @ 7/2

Potential Return: £45

The controversial captain of Russia is a character than cannot be ignored. He grew up in CSKA’s youth setup but had trouble with gambling, drinking and authority – he even fabricated a story about a broken arm to party with his friends as as teenager – and developed a reputation as troublemaker. A late developer, he only completed a full top-flight season at the age of 26, but after arriving at Zenit he finally began delivering on his early promise.

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The reformed bad boy of Russian football, Roman Shirokov [photo: pfc-cska.com]

A couple of seasons spent mostly on loan have threatened to tarnish his career legacy, but now he is reunited with his national team boss Leonid Slutskiy (the podgy chap who sways back and forwards on the bench in Champions League games) with the motivation of leading his country against England and Wales at Euro 2016, he is in a perfect place to sign off his career with a bang. A stunning goal and equally impressive pass to help create another in their Russian Cup win over Ufa this week show he is already comfortable in his attacking role ahead of Pontus Wernbloom and Alan Dzagoev.

Bet 3 Monday 7 March, Ural Sverdlovskaya Oblast v Dinamo Moscow

Over 1.5 first half goals £10 @ 12/5

Potential Return: £34

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Ivan Drago. Ok, Pavel Pogrebnyak…

Ural are an odd team to watch. They have been involved in more goals than any other side in the league at home (32 in just 8 matches), and yet their only senior striker is the 35-year-old Spartak Gogniev; their manager at the start of the season, Viktor Goncharenko, is Eastern Europe’s most promising young manager, but was sacked after a betting scandal and only one win in the first seven matches. His assistant then won five of the next seven matches to take them to the brink of the European places.

 

They have conceded in the first half in four of their last five home games, and with Dinamo having reinforced reasonably well given the FFP restrictions that have hit them hard this season, I expect the visitors to start strongly. They finished the autumn in dreadful disarray with only three goals on their travels since the beginning of August, but with the promising but relatively unknown Fatos Beqiraj up front they no longer rely on Reading reject Pavel Pogrebnyak for goals.

 

*All odds are taken from bet365.com

Tyumen Musings Part 14: Prison, Tea and Studying

Monday mornings are never fun, but when you go back to school every week at the age of 30 it’s even worse. I should play fair; I am actually supposed to do this – I am a teacher after all. But there is something about classrooms that will remind us all of being trapped in a space where we must obey a direct figure of authority. How good did the bell at the end of the school day feel? And what was the overriding emotion? For most of us it was surely of relief, of escape.

Which is ironic, given the history of my current school. Some of you may have seen that video of a Russian road “eating itself” that was featured on the Top Gear website two years ago – that happenned a few hundred metres from our company’s front door – or heard about a block of flats that partially exploded after a faulty gas leak. Yep, that was our road again. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that on Kharkovskaya Street in Tyumen there is an intriguing history; our building is only about 20 years old, but previously it was actually a prison.

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Just a simple teabag, you might think: but in the Soviet Union, it became a valuable form of currency…

Now there stands a slightly incongruous collection of older blocks of flats, newer developments and children’s playgrounds, but in the 1970s it housed some minor offenders. Viktor* (I’m doing the whole not-his-real-name thing for a few reasons) is a successful businessman in his late 50s who used to live directly across the road as a child, and he revealed the real history of our establishment to me one day. “My older brother and I used to live on the third floor, and we could just about see over the wall from our bedroom window,” he told me. “All the inmates were put to work in a small factory producing red bricks and roof tiles, but in their free time they used to get high from concentrated tea leaves. What we used to do was throw tea bags over the wall, and they would tell us stories about their life inside and how they would ‘use’ the tea in large quantities – it was too risky to smuggle cigarettes, although some risked it.”

Be honest – at this point,you’re probably reading this thinking ‘Siberia during the Soviet Union + prison = gulag’; this is a sensitive issue, and can be quite offensive to lump all forms of forced manual labour into that bracket. The horrific camps that Josef Stalin set up across the vast abyss of tundra and forest that make up large swathes of this part of modern day Russia were a different beast entirely – this particular type of prison was built in cities (in this case, it was near the outskirts back then, but is now considered to be almost in the centre) and housed thieves and vandals, not murderers, rapists and political enemies.

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Siberian gulags were horrific camps where millions were sent during the Soviet Union’s earlier years, and they remain a taboo topic today

Young Viktor and his brother would throw their stash of teabags over the wall, and would sometimes receive gifts handcrafted by the inmates in return. The workshops inside the prison had equipment for all kinds of construction, and with access to certain materials, the prisoners could fashion the most remarkable objects. “This pen probably weighs about half a kilo,” he said as he handed me what looked like a tiny rocket. “My brother had to send cigarettes over the wall for this one, something he could have got in more trouble for than for teabags!” It was beautiful. It was a normal biro except for the casing, which was thick brass that had been smoothly rounded, and had clearly not been damaged in almost half a century.

When I see my teenage students trudge into the classroom with their Dr Dr Beats headphones clamped to their ears and the eyes glued to their iPhone 6S, their complaints of slave labour at school make me chuckle and think of Viktor and his ‘friends’ across the road. What I will say is that they do seem to have a huge workload compared to what I remember having; the attitude seems to be to force them to do the maximum possible so that they are trained to accept long hours. At University, I had 11 weekly contact hours, some of which I lazily failed to attend, whereas here students regularly work virtually full time jobs before studying in the evening up to 30 hours a week.

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This young boy might as well be one of my students with the amount of homework they have. Well that’s what they tell me…

In the city of Tyumen, which is the capital of the most oil – rich region in Russia, there is a burgeoning demand for English language learning, and we have by far the largest collection of native speaking teachers. It is the major advantage, as people will lap up the social cache of saying they have a native teacher. I might just be lucky, but I find about 95% of my students to be engaging characters and dedicated language learners. There are some who have been pushed to attend by their company, or children whose parents are obsessed with injecting their them with knowledge, but it is an enjoyable environment in which to teach.

I admit when I first arrived, there was a difference in the attitude towards what constituted a decent level of English between then and now. One night out with a lot of friends, I found myself sitting next to a University professor of English Language, but the problem was that Regina was utterly incomprehensible – my two year old daughter could have made herself better understood.

Of course a fair quantity of beer was partly to blame for her broken speech, but I was shocked that she was teaching higher education students my native tongue. Even in six years, however, I have sensed a real shift towards higher standards in English learning. Now my students are actively looking for international exams for better job opportunities or even visas to live abroad, and it is heartening to see when this comes fruition.

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My future Russian teachers Dasha & Sophia…

One day my girls will start school, and they will walk through the gates nervously as they face a fairly driven, intimidating atmosphere. I will be more nervous than them without question, but at least I can be safe in the knowledge that for all the drawbacks of being a foreign parent, I have given them one sizeable leg up: English. They can pay me back by letting me try their Russian homework, although I’m not sure much I’ll be able to do. Russians study their own language for 10 years and still debate how to use it as grown adults, so what hope do I have??

 

Tyumen Musings Part 13: (Late) Christmas Special

I have redefined cool.

We’ve all grimaced at those low-riding custom job cars with the windows down blaring out some god-awful abomination claiming to be music. It’s odd why some people think anyone else gives a **** about whatever form of mind-numbingly inane hip hop beat they find defining, and I swore I would never sink to anything like that low. Well have you never broken a promise?

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Tyumen has an odd range of cars on its roads, from Toyota Landcruisers and Porsche Cayenne 4x4s to these gaudy monstrosities – all blaring out horrendous music

As I sped down the central artery of the glorious Siberian city of Tyumen at 11pm, I succumbed to this vice. The thumping tunes blared out at full volume (and I mean FULL volume), attracting glances ranging somewhere between disgust and utter bemusement as my companions wound down the window. For the short ride home we were transported to another realm, far removed from our surroundings. If we had closed our eyes, we could almost have been huddled around a log fire with a glass of wine and a contented belly full of turkey and trimings, not rushing home over the dirty ice-ridden streets after a long day’s work surrounded by people who didn’t care much for us at all.

 

The difference is that whereas suburban white gopniks – chavs to English readers – pathetically attempt to connect to their ‘brothers’ from the East or West coast of a country they generally look upon with contempt, my choons were the distinctly un-rock’n’roll strains of Nat King Cole. Oh yes. Welcome to life on Christmas Day as an expat in a country where December 25 is a just another date…

The last time I wrote a blog post, the sun was beating down as I panted out of breath having run a sprightly kilometre in a ‘snug’ grey suit. Two stylish chaps strolled down the path in front of me, so effortlessly smooth and emanating the sort of cool we all wish we had a bit more of. Thankfully they took pity on the hapless foreigner and were charming in their openness as they took photos with me and chatted for a while.

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A style icon – and Evgeniy Savin

One of them is about the most fashionable men to ever step foot in Tyumen. Ha ha, big deal I hear you say; well he is also now a presenter on Mr Putin’s grand new TV sports channel, Match TV, having also been called up to one of Guus Hiddink’s Russia squads a few years back. Evgeniy Savin is the sort of man who could look cool in a bin bag and a bowler hat, but he doesn’t conform to the largely true stereotype of the disconnected, arrogant and self-obsessed Russian football superstar. He runs a youth tournament every year wherever his career takes him, and last summer he spent a lot of time with the hundreds of kids who came to Tyumen as they played for the Kubok Savina (won by “Tyumen-2003” = under 12s, since you ask). He even found time to speak to the grey-suited foreigner again.

The other, meanwhile, is entertaining thousands in Brazil on a weekly basis. His arrival was a real culture shock; a Brazilian with actual talent and reasonable pedigree playing in Tyumen was not something we have been used to. Every time he touched the ball, something unique happened which either created an opening or at least put us on the edge of our seats. Cleyton by name, genius by nature. Will we see his like again? Well possibly, yes; only four places off the playoff places with a game in hand and with Spartak reserves – currently just above FC Tyumen in the table – unable to be promoted, the omens are promising for a dramatic end to the season. The mouth-watering prospect of top flight football down the road awaits.

Why am I mentioning these two players again? They have both moved on from our humble town to pursue what they wanted to do; Cleyton is now back in his homeland, Savin is in front of the national TV cameras, and neither are stuck in limbo. Little did they know it at the time, but when they stopped and were so open to me, they lodged a mental note in my head to follow their paths. Much as I admired them on the pitch, they were both clearly not made for the environment Tyumen offered for different reasons, so the fact that they got off their ‘zhopas’ and did something about it is inspiring. To me at least.

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“Soon it will be Monday, and back to work!” – This poster may have Soviet propaganda written all over it, but it hints at the hours many Russians work

My brother-in-law is an example of this ruthless pursuit of self-improvement that I find common in many Russians. Like 90% of the population in my adopted home town, he qualified as an engineer, but not satisfied with an office job and little prospect of career progression, he took the bold move at a time when the rouble was beginning to fall faster and faster to find a new job that involved moving hundreds of kilometres away from his family, and worked so hard he was awarded a prize in recognition of his progress.

The number of hours worked by the average Russian is, to me, astonishing. University students often work full time jobs in conjunction with studying with 30 contact hours a week. I had 11 weekly hours on my schedule at University, and I struggled to make half of those sometimes, yet alone hold down a 9 to 5 at the same time. What is curious is the surprise local people show me when I say how hard I think Russians work; my students and friends tell me that while many of their compatriots work long hours, they don’t always use them efficiently. The thing is, I used to do neither – unless fine-tuning my team on Football Manager counts as productive. No? Oh well. I might just fit in here after all…

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*After an enforced hiatus from Andrewmijflint.com due to technical reasons – I forgot my password – Tyumen Musings and all my other personal views will be posted here. The name ‘An Englishman in Siberia’ has been permitted by the very kind James Brooks, who has written a brilliant account of life as (you guessed it) a fellow countryman in this vast region which can be found at http://www.siberia.eclipse.co.uk. My personal favourite story is of how he met his future wife via a tramp and a bus stop, but please do discover his adventures in Chita and beyond for yourself.