Ural v Rubin Kazan | Sunday 21st April 2019, 14:30
We had quite an important bottom half encounter taking place in the Russian Super League this weekend.
Both Ural and Rubin Kazan could still be playing their football in the second tier next season. Neither will finish in the bottom two, who will be instantly relegated, but the two spots above that would have to contest a promotion/relegation play-off with a side from the FNL, but they have their destiny in their own control with only seven games remaining.
Ural have spent the last five seasons in the Russia top-flight, with end positions ranging from eighth to 13th. It could therefore be argued that they’re performing roughly as they should, with them currently situated 12th in this 16-team division. This is also where they finished last season.
The reality is that this time of the season is likely to be quite nervy with them for some time. They don’t have the finances to compete higher up the standings, so avoiding relegation is as good as they can expect at the moment. They’re not in bad form, going unbeaten in their last three in league and cup, winning two of those.
Ask anyone with a remote understanding of clubs playing in Russia and chances are that Average Joe will stumble across the name of Rubin Kazan. In 2009/10 and 2010/11 they made the Champions League group stages, earning home draws with Barcelona in each of those. Between 2011 and 2016 they made the Europa League group stages on four occasions too, making the quarter-finals in 2013 before being knocked out 5-4 to Chelsea, who went on to lift the trophy under Rafa Benitez.
In more recent times they’ve had their issues. They fell breach to Financial Fair Play last year, earning them a one-year ban from playing in European competition, which is likely to begin from 2020/21. They’re currently winless in six, but did win the two before that, either side of the winter break.
With the top-four all facing each other in this league at the weekend, Ural versus Rubin Kazan probably won’t attract too many headlines. Therefore, I believe we can locate a little bit of value for us to have a play with.
One thing that the Russian Premier League doesn’t generally produce is goals. Zenit have the highest average of goals per game at just 2.70, with anything sub 3 in my eyes not being too high. Ural however have seen 12/23 of their matches beat the 2.50 goal line, but that means 11 has failed to do so, meaning it isn’t necessarily that convincing to suggest goals are very, very likely on Sunday.
If anything, goals are less likely by the fact 18/23 of Rubin Kazan’s contests has ended U2.5. Their games average only 1.70, the joint-second lowest in the league. Just two of their last 17 in league and cup has seen 3+ goals in any match.
I just cannot picture goals in this game at all. It has plenty riding on it and it is certainly one neither will want to lose. Traditionally this has been quite a tight game over the years as it is. Five of the last seven has finished below 2.5, with the earlier season clash being a scrappy 1-0 win for Rubin Kazan.
Rubin play quite a defensive game, highlighted by the fact they’ve drew 12/23 of their league games; the most of any side in the league.
We won’t get rich backing just U2.5, so I’m happy to use the bet builder to get another selection alongside it.
Ural Double Chance and Under 2.5 Goals looks a nice enough 4/5 (Bet365) chance.
Ural are actually on a very good run of form at home. Since August, only Zenit and CSKA has managed to defeat them at the Ekaterinburg Arena. That means three of the four defeats they’ve suffered in front of their own supporters came against the current top-four.
Ural therefore are unbeaten in two-thirds of their home clashes, whilst Kazan have just one win on the road so far. Ironically, that came 2-1 away to league leaders Zenit, but they scored with two of their three shots, so it was quite a smash and grab approach. They’ve also won only one of the last five H2H with Ural, which was the earlier season encounter.
PAOK Saloniki v Levadiakos | Sunday 21st April 2019, 17:00
PAOK find themselves in the situation where they need only one point from their remaining two games to secure the league title. What they’d love to do is achieve that this weekend in front of their own supporters, their final home match of the campaign. They would likely receive the trophy as well, and an encounter with already-relegated Levadiakos is probably the perfect opposition for them on Sunday.
This would be PAOK’s first league title since 1985, so it really is a big deal.
PAOK, also known as O Roufianos tou Vorra, have certainly been the dominant side in the Greek Super League this season. 28 games in, they’re still unbeaten. They did the double over Olympiakos, and have only dropped points in one home match the entire season.
They’ve still got the Greek Cup to play for, and whilst they’ve got an important second leg to Asteras Tripolis to come in midweek, they hold a fairly comfortably 2-0 lead from the first leg. There is no need to rest players therefore this weekend, and even so, they should be winning this match at an absolute canter.
The only hope Levadiakos have this weekend is if PAOK do indeed have half an eye on the cup and they rest several players. There honestly is no reason to do that however, so I’m going to go as far as saying the victory isn’t really in doubt for PAOK on Sunday. That is reflective in their very, very skinny odds however, so finding value is often tricky in matches of this nature.
There are ways to get them on side however, and one thing we can use to our advantage is their tremendously strong defensive record. The reality is that they probably won’t be doing too much defending in this encounter. They’ve conceded only 14 times all season, the best in the division.
Levadiakos themselves only have 15 goals to their name, with only five coming on the road. They’ve scored just one goal in their last seven away from home. If it wasn’t for how terrible Smyrnis have been, then Levadiakos would be rock bottom themselves.
There should be a party atmosphere at the Toumba Stadium and I can’t see anything but a routine home win. Using the Bet365 Bet Builder, we can harbour some additional value by throwing a few selections together.
PAOK Half Time/Full Time, Both Teams To Score ‘No’ and Over 1.5 Goals looks a pretty solid 10/11 (Bet365) shot.
Perhaps the only slight question mark is if PAOK can score in the first half. However, they’ve been leading at the break in 16 of their 28 matches so far, and 9/14 at home.