The Russian Premier League is a long haul. It's 18 months long because of the enormous winter break. It started this weekend which is almost a month before most European leagues get underway. Zenit Saint Petersburg are the current champions but who will win the RPL this season?
Zenit ran away with the championship last season and nobody could catch them. Since then they have barely added to the squad but neither have they lost anyone. This shouldn't be a problem though as they haven't delved into the market for a few seasons now. They have the best defence in the league and their front six complement each other perfectly. I their opening game they walked over Amkar Perm with a 2-0 victory. It was a very comfortable victory as Amkar failed to break Zenit's solid defence. Kerzhakov scored both of the goals and his Euro 2012 performance looks to be behind him.
CSKA Moscow are known as the strongest side from Moscow. They always put up a fight in Europe and often get through the group stages of the Champions League. In recent years they've lost big players such as Krasic, who subsequently flopped in Turin. Their main striker Doumbia needs to be on top form if they are going to challenge Zenit for the title. He can often go missing in games but nearly always scores to make up for his inadequate performances. In their opening game, they beat Rostov 1-0. A goal from Doumbia gave them all three points.
Spartak Moscow look to be real contenders this season. They have an array of players that gel so well together and the acquisition of Brazilian starlet Romulo will only boost their title hopes. Although they don't have the squad depth of CSKA and Zenit, they do have real stars that perform well as a team. Their opening game was against Alaniya and what a performance it was. They played really well and their football was pleasing on the eye. They managed to beat Alaniya 2-1 but the score line didn't reflect the game. When Romulo returns after the Olympics, he'll tighten up the midfield and bolster their title plans.
Anzhi Makhachkala are the Manchester City of Russia. Since Suleyman Kerimov purchased the club in 2011, they have purchased major stars such as Eto'o and Samba. However they could only manage 5th place last season. A disappoint result for all involved. You'd think a team like Anzhi, with all that money, would purchase more players to build on that disappointing result. Since the window opened, they've only purchased Traore from Krasnodar. They still have time to purchase more players but you'd think they'd have bought the needed players before the start of the season. They came from behind in their opening game to beat Krasnodar 2-1. Goals from Eto'o and new boy Traore gave them all three points.
Lokomotiv Moscow may not be the most famous club in Russia but they do have a few credentials that could see them winning the RPL. After Euro 2012, Slaven Bilic left Croatia and became the manager of Lokomotiv. Everyone knows how good a manager Bilic is and many Premier League clubs wanted his services. Bilic could lead Lokomotiv to the title but maybe not this season. Next season seems more plausible. Their opening game was a thriller as they beat Mordovia Saransk 3-2. All three points but they conceded two goals. We'll just have to see if Bilic can tighten up their defence in the near future.
Dinamo Moscow and Rubin Kazan are the only teams left that have a chance of winning the title. However neither have the guile that it takes to win the title this season. Especially at the rate that Zenit are going at. Dinamo are a very unstable club and one can never predict their results. Rubin Kazan might have had previous success in recent years but it seems too difficult for them to pull it out of the bag this season. It would take a miracle for either Dinamo or Rubin to beat Zenit to the title. Especially with big guns such as Anzhi, CSKA and Spartak in the way.