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Now Rubin are not a force to be taken lightly, even by the very best. A stunning 2-1 victory over Barcelona at Camp Nou really announced their arrival on the continental stage, though an inability to win at home in a group also containing eventual champions Inter and a competitive Dynamo Kyiv side would prove decisive in their eventual elimination.
The rise of the Tatary has mirrored that of Tatarstan as a whole, with the money flowing into the region seeping into the football side. However, Rubin are presently vying for fans with local ice hockey club Ak Bars Kazan, who presently remain at the heart of the city’s affections.
STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
Very obviously, the Rubinovye’s strong point is their collective ability to defend. While each individual in the back four may not be especially highly rated, coach Kurban Berdyev has moulded together an extremely effective unit that places a premium on working as a team. Ferociously hard to break down, they have lost only eight league goals in 19 matches.
Barcelona certainly found out all about how hard the Tatary are to penetrate last season, stifled in Russia to a scoreless draw after being shocked on the counterattack in the Catalan capital only a couple of weeks earlier.
But this was when Rubin possessed the likes of Alejandro Dominguez and Aleksandr Bukharov to break rapidly, not to mention lynchpin midfielder Sergei Semak, and all of these key figures have since departed for fresh challenges. Scoring goals is therefore liable to be the main challenge for the Russian outfit, who are barely touching one-a-game in their domestic league at present.
With several new faces recently drafted into the squad, particularly in attack, it could take some time for the present RPL champions to click.
STARS & KEY PLAYERS
The loss of striker Aleksandr Bukharov to Zent St. Petersburg in the summer has been a massive blow for Rubin, who have signed Nigerian international attacker Obafemi Martins in the hope of replacing some of the 16 goals contributed by their former star last season. Quick, athletic and strong, the 25-year-old isn’t necessarily known for a prolific strike-rate, though he is a versatile forward and should be an effective component of the side once he fully beds in to his new surroundings.
Christian Noboa has stepped forward to fill the goal scoring void to some extent, though his primary occupation in the side is very much a creative one. The 25-year-old Ecuadorian has now been with the Russian outfit for three years and has enjoyed some success, finding the net with relatively regularity and supporting to front players ably. Technically gifted, he poses a threat with his long range shooting, which has helped him accrue five league goals this term.
Argentine full-back Cristian Ansaldi has proven himself a valuable player at both ends of the field. Regularly deployed on the left of the back four, he is also capable of featuring on the right, but like most modern full-backs he is also extremely comfortable pushing forward and helping out the attack. Set-pieces are something of a speciality for the 23-year-old, whose excellent deliveries into the box have already seen him credited with a team-high number of assists this term.
COACH & TACTICS
Kurban Berdyev occupies dual roles at Rubin, overseeing the vice president’s duties while also taking the reins of the first team squad, which is a role he has done with some success since taking over from Viktor Antikhovich in 2001.
The Kazan outfit were but a second flight side when the Turkmen coach took over, and not an especially impressive one at that. Though an eighth placed finish was ultimately achieved, Berdyev’s side had only missed relegation by six points. In his first full campaign in charge there was to be a dramatic acceleration in the ambitious club’s fortunes, winning the First Division by losing only six times and leaking only 14 goals.
Berdyev’s influence continued to guide the club to previously unknown heights. Rubin were unfazed with the prospect of debuting in the RPL and finished a highly impressive third before establishing themselves first as a top ten side over the coming four years.
In 2008, the introverted coach finally made the ultimate breakthrough, claiming the league title by a four point margin over CSKA Moscow before repeating the feat 12 months later.
While Zenit St. Petersburg look all but certainties to dethrone Rubin this year, the Tatarstan team remain one of Russia’s undoubted elite. They maintain the hallmarks of the sides Berdyev has put together in the past in that they first work to be strong at the back and only then concentrate on scoring goals.
The coach himself is a reserved figure in the dugout, rarely getting excited or angry, often content to sit on the bench and clutch a copy of the Koran.
Don’t expect fireworks from this side, but do expect them to be hard to beat.
Until the last decade, Rubin had nothing worth writing home about. They had reached the quarter-finals of the Russian Cup in 1937 and 1998, but those were two undoubted highlights of a history spent entirely in the lower reaches of the game.
Once promoted to the top flight, the Rubinovye have seen their stock rise considerably, though their only two major honours are their RPL titles in each of the last two years. The Cup remains elusive, though they did reach the final last term before being defeated by ten-man CSKA Moscow, who struck the decisive blow deep into injury time at the end of the second half.
Boasting a capacity of just over 30,000, the Central Stadium of Kazan will play host to Champions League football for the second successive year. A bowl of an arena surrounded by an expanse of concrete, the venue is by no means one of the most picturesque in the competition, and neither is it one of the most sheltered as around half the seats are totally uncovered.
Football is not the only sport that takes place at the venue, which also boasts facilities for national basketball and volleyball championships, as well as Koresh wrestling.
HERO OF THE FANS
There aren’t too many local heroes for the home fans to associate with. Despite being Moscow-born and therefore considered to have a different mindset to the Tatarstan-born players, club captain Roman Sharonov is the leader of the side from the heart of the defence. The 33-year-old combines experience and wholeheartedness in his play, making him an ideal captain in the absence of any truly overwhelming star.
The Champions League brings with it a rematch against Barcelona, which the Catalans will surely see as some kind of revenge mission, as well as encounters against Panathinaikos and Copenhagen.
Despite losing a handful of their top stars since they last competed at this level, the Rubinovye should at least manage to better the Danes, while they cannot expect to enjoy the success they did last year against Barca. The fixtures against Panathinaikos will therefore be pivotal, though the Russians should fancy their chances of at least beating the Greeks at home.
Given their current squad, it’s hard to see Berdyev’s men going past the last 16 though.
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|RUS1||Anji Makhachkal - Rubin||3/8/14 12:00 PM GMT|
|RUS1||Rubin - Volga||3/14/14 12:00 PM GMT|
|RUS1||Dynamo Moscow - Rubin||3/21/14 12:00 PM GMT|
|RUS1||Rubin - Rostov||3/28/14 12:00 PM GMT|
|RUS1||Zenit - Rubin||4/5/14 12:00 PM BST|
|RUS1||Rubin - Kuban' Krasnodar||4/11/14 12:00 PM BST|
|RUS1||Rubin - Spartak Moscow||4/18/14 12:00 PM BST|
|RUS1||CSKA Moscow - Rubin||4/25/14 12:00 PM BST|
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