EUROPEAN football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) attempts to extend his winning Euro NAP streak to four in Russia on Sunday.
Lokomotiv Moscow v Ufa | Sunday 12th July 2020, 14:30 | YouTube
Zenit St Petersburg have already been crowned Russian Premier League champions having marched 15 points clear of the chasing pack with only three fixtures to play. However, there’s still plenty to play for below top spot as teams battle it out for Champions League and Europa League places.
Sunday’s showdown between Lokomotiv Moscow and Ufa holds real significance in the continental qualification race with the Moscow men looking to secure second place in the Premier League and a return to Europe’s premier club competition, whilst UFA are eyeing-up just a second-ever sojourn into the Europa League.
Lokomotiv played out a third consecutive draw in midweek during the city derby with Spartak. The result extends Marco Nikolic’s unbeaten streak to five (W2-D3-L0) after taking over the three-time champions during lockdown. The hosts now hold a four-point advantage over CSKA in the quest for Champions League qualification.
Meanwhile, Ufa consolidated their position in sixth with a surprise 2-1 success at Rostov. The Reds have now suffered a solitary reverse since the start of November (W4-D8-L1) with Vadim Evseev’s ultra-defensive approach paying dividends. The visitors have only thrice conceded two goals or more in their past 25 Premier League outings.
Ufa set-up in a 3-5-1-1 system that appears closer to a 5-4-1 formation when out of possession, which is the vast majority of matches. Evseev’s outfit aim to frustrate, preferring to play without the ball, utilising the counter-attack and set-pieces, posting the division’s lowest away possession (41%) and firing in fewer than nine attempts at goal per-game.
It might not be pretty, but Ufa’s approach is mightily effective, especially against the big guns. The Reds earned four points and two clean sheets in contests with Zenit, and have lost just twice in 13 encounters with fellow top-half teams (W4-D7-L2). Even so, games are rarely fun to follow with Ufa chalking up seven goalless draws on their travels already.
Overall, 11 of Ufa’s 14 away days have paid out for Under 2.5 Goals (3/4 Marathon) backers with just one game featuring four or more goals. The Reds have fired blanks on 10 occasions, as well as keeping nine shutouts of their own, with outings averaging a paltry 1.14 goals and 1.89 Expected Goals (xG), suggesting a low-scoring selection is the way to go.
All five of Lokomotiv’s matches under Nikolic have also rewarded Under 2.5 Goals hunters but it might be worth instead looking towards the 20/23 (Betfair) available on ‘No’ in the Goal In Both Halves market. It’s a wager at a larger price that’s provided profit in 20 (74%) of the duos respective 27 home/away contests this season. I’m not expecting a goal-glut.
Lokomotiv Moscow v Ufa – A Goal In Both Halves: No (20/23 Betfair)