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Football: Tough tests ahead for Zenit and Lokomotiv

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Table-toppers Zenit St Petersburg and Lokomotiv Moscow are both facing stern tests in this weekend's Russian Premier League action.

Lokomotiv, who beat city rivals Dynamo 1-0 last week to join Zenit at the top, will travel on Monday to play Kuban Krasnodar, the railway-backed side previously coached by Leonid Kuchuk.

Kuchuk said he expected a tough match against Kuban, but this, he added, would be no different to any other game.

"We caught up with Zenit on top but the title race is currently in full swing," he said.

"There are two very important matches remaining for us this year and we want to get positive results in both of them to maintain our title hopes.

Meanwhile, ninth-placed Kuban, who earned a morale-boosting 4-0 Europa League win over Swiss side St Gallen on Thursday, are preparing for a close match on Monday.

"Kuban have had a series of setbacks this season and we took that out on our opponents in the Europa League," said Kuban manager Vikrtor Goncharenko, who replaced Romania's Dorinel Munteanu at the helm last month.

"We showed quality football in this match and I hope we will be able to produce a similar display in the clash with Lokomotiv."

Zenit, who are looking for a fourth league title, will try to bounce back from two consecutive defeats when they take on minnows Terek Grozny on Sunday.

However, the Saint Petersburg side's head coach Luciano Spalletti said he needed compusure and control from his players to get back on the winning track.

"In general I'm pleased with my team's performance in recent matches, especially in the Champions League encounter with Atletico Madrid," Spalletti said.

"But we desperately need to begin scoring goals as we are squandering too many chances lately.

"That means our attacking line players need to be much more focused and cold-blooded in front of our rivals' net. I believe they are capable of doing that."

Zenit will start favourites to take all three points at Grozny as Terek have been struggling all season so far.

The club from the Chechen republic's capital are languishing second from bottom with just one win so far.

Russia's most decorated club Spartak Moscow, who share third spot with city rivals CSKA, will face Volga Nizhny Novgorod also on Sunday.

Spartak, who defeated Volga 1-0 earlier this season, still have problems in defence as three of their first-choice players -- Sergei Bryzgalov, Italian Salvatore Bocchetti and Germany's Serdar Taschi -- are all injured.

Armenian international striker Yura Movsisyan, who is the league's joint top scorer with 12 goals, is also an injury doubt for Spartak manager Valery Karpin.

"Our defeat at the hands of CSKA was the result of a mistake by our goalkeeper," Karpin said.

"We just need to forget it and prepare for the next match. My team has shown solid football in recent matches and I believe we just need to continue playing in that style to be successful."

Reigning champions CSKA also have a tough test on Monday in the match away to Rostov, who upset Zenit 2-0 at Saint Petersburg a week ago. The Red Army side won the first enounter this season between the sides 1-0.

"We were very lucky to win at Saint Petersburg," Rostov head coach Miodrag Bozovic said.

"The win boosted our self-confidence a great deal and I hope we can get a positive result against CSKA, who might be tired after their Champions' League match."

Fixtures

Saturday

Dynamo Moscow v Ural Yekaterinburg

Sunday

Terek Grozny v Zenit St Petersburg, Samara v FC Krasnodar, Spartak v Volga Nizhny Novgorod

Monday

Anzhi Makhachkala v Tomsk, Rostov v CSKA Moscow, Rubin Kazan v Amkar Perm, Kuban Krasnodar v Lokomotiv Moscow

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131129/football-tough-tests-ahead-zenit-and-lokomotiv