Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg have enjoyed a perfect start to the season but coach Andre Villas-Boas claims his players have yet to hit their stride.

Zenit have come out of the blocks fighting, seeing off Lokomotiv Moscow on penalties in the Russian Super Cup, and Dynamo Moscow in their league opener last weekend.

Next up is a trip to Ural Yekaterinburg on Sunday as Zenit look to make it two out of two in the league with Villas-Boas indicating his players are far from fully wound up.

“Only four weeks have passed since our pre-season practices began,” the former Porto, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur manager said. 

“But the players will get closer to their top form from match to match.

“Against Dynamo we moved much faster than we did in the Super Cup. I believe the team will get even better in a couple of weeks.”

Ural, who beat Kuban Krasnodar 2-0 in their opener, are gearing up for a tough clash against the title favourites.

“Of course we were happy to start the new season with a victory,” said Ural head coach Viktor Goncharenko.

“But the upcoming match will be a completely different affair. It’s a very serious test for our team.”

Last season’s runners-up CSKA Moscow are first up this weekend, they are at newly promoted Samara on Friday.

For CSKA this is a warm-up to the Red Army’s crucial Champions League third qualifying round encounter with Czech high-flyers Sparta Prague next week.

“Sparta is a well-known club, one of the longstanding leaders of Czech football,” said CSKA boss Lenoid Slutsky.

“I expect a tough battle for a place in the play-offs.

“But first we need to perform at Samara. They started the season well, winning their first Premier League match on their return.

“No doubts that they will want to extend their winning run in front of their home crowd. I expect a hard match on Friday,” added Slutsky.

FC Krasnodar, third last season, tackle Russia’s most decorated club Spartak Moscow on Sunday.

But despite the challenge of facing the nine-time former champions, Krasnodar manager Oleg Kononov expects his youthful side to perform in front of their home fans.

“We’re a young team, it’s just our fifth season in the Premier League,” he said.

“But we have no other choice but to come onto the pitch and fight until the very end in every single match regardless of the opponent.

“Spartak is a big name in Russian football and I believe my men don’t need any extra motivation to produce their best football against them, especially in front of our home crowd,” added Kononov.

Spartak, who finished sixth last season, drew 2-2 at home to FC Ufa in their opening game in a match shrouded in controversy with ex-Arsenal player Emmanuel Frimpong sent off after responding to alleged monkey chants directed at him by Spartak supporters. 


Fixtures (all times GMT)


Samara v CSKA Moscow (1600)


Ufa v Rostov (1300), Dynamo Moscow v Mordovia Saransk (1530), Terek Grozny v Kuban Krasnodar (1800)


Ural Yekaterinburg v Zenit St Petersburg (1030), Rubin Kazan v Amkar Perm (1400), FC Krasnodar v Spartak Moscow (1700)


Anzhi Makhachkala v Lokomotiv Moscow (1700)

Agence France-Presse

- Advertisement -