Caspian region football (soccer) teams experienced highs and lows last week, ranging from unexpected loses to promising wins that could propel some teams to the UEFA Champions League and Europa League.
Russia’s Lokomotiv Moskva secured its first win on November 28, resulting in 2-0 against Turkey’s Galatasaray in a home match after four consecutive losses during the UEFA Champions League. Lokomotiv now ranks last in Group D, with three points gained in five matches.
But its match against Schalke in Germany on December 11 could see the team from Moscow make it to the Europa League knockout games if it is successful next week. If four-point holder Galatasaray loses against Portuguese group leader Porto in a home match on the same day, and Lokomotiv defeats Schalke, then the Russian team will advance forward in the Europa League.
Another Russian team hoping to make it to the UEFA Champions League, CSKA, is following a similar scenario to Lokomotiv. Despite a 1-2 home game loss against Serbian champions Crvena Zvezda on November 27 and coming in last with three points in Group G, CSKA is not giving up. CSKA’s last game against the most successful team in Champions League history and group leader, Real Madrid, in the Spanish capital on December 12 may allow it to advance. This depends upon Roma, however – currently a group runner-up – winning its match over Crvena Zvezda and CSKA at least having a draw against Real Madrid.
While Russian teams show some signs of hope for advancing, others from the Caspian region are not so fortunate.
The Azerbaijani team Qarabag said goodbye to its playoff dreams after it was outshone 1-6 by Portugal’s Sporting on Thursday in a home game in Baku. Those results shut out any chance for Qarabag to take at least second place in Group E. England’s Arsenal and Sporting have made it through the knockout stage so far with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
The UEFA Europa League hopeful from Russia, Zenit, has cemented its top spot with 11 points in Group C in the wake of a 1-0 home win against Denmark’s København on Thursday. The last game with Czech champion Slavia Praha will not change anything, and Zenit will head to the play-off as a group leader.
Both Astana from Kazakhstan and Russia’s Spartak Moskva have lost their respective home games in the Europa League group stage matches that were held on November 29. In the Group G match, Astana lost 0-1 to Ukraine’s Dinamo Kyiv, while Spartak Moskva suffered a 1-2 loss against Rapid Wien of Austria. Astana now stands at number two in Group K with eight points while Spartak Moskva is the Group G outsider with just five points.
Despite a group runner-up qualifying for the knockout stage, according to UEFA regulations, Astana may lose this advantage if an away match to take place on December 13 against the Group K third place holder, Rennes from France, ends up in a loss. A victory or a draw can save Astana’s hopes for the playoffs, however.
Spartak Moskva has the least amount of points in its group, but it will play against group G leader Villarreal in a make-or-break match on December 13 and possibly become a playoff participant.