Two Moscow derbies that may prove decisive dominate the Russian Premier League this weekend.
Reigning champions CSKA Moscow face a tough examination of their title claims against city rivals Spartak in Moscow’s most famous derby at the Lokomotiv stadium on Sunday.
CSKA lead the league with 20 points from eight matches, three points ahead of Spartak, who share second with Zenit St Petersburg.
Matches between CSKA and Spartak are historically tense, causing concern for Moscow police with rival fans known for their mutual hatred.
Mass brawls between CSKA and Spartak supporters ahead and after their league meetings have become routine.
CSKA go into the match on the back of a disappointing 3-0 defeat in their Champions League opener against European champions Bayern Munich.
They have also been hit by a number of injuries.
Ivory Coast sharpshooter Soydou Doumbia has a hip problem picked up in the Red Army side’s match with Amkar Perm two weeks ago and is sidelined for around four more weeks.
Russian international midfielder Alan Dzagoev is also out for up to three weeks after his leg injury suffered against Rostov last time out.
Sweden midfielder Rasmus Elm is unavailable, still recovering from a foot injury.
Spartak have injury problems of their own, as their Italian defender Salvatore Bocchetti, Ukrainian goalkeeper Andrei Dykan, and Brazilian midfielder Romulo are all out along with recently-signed German Serdar Tasci, who has arrived at Spartak’s base with a minor leg injury.
Another pair of Moscow clubs, Dynamo and Lokomotiv, open the weekend program on Saturday.
Dynamo, who earned a confident 4-1 win at Yekaterinburg on Monday courtesy of Andrei Voronin’s hat-trick, will be without German striker Kevin Kuranyi and Armenian international goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky.
Fourth-placed railway-backed Lokomotiv will visit Dynamo’s Khimki Arena without their first-choice Brazilian goalkeeper Guilherme.
Three-time former champions Zenit take on fifth-placed Rostov.
Zenit are without skipper Roman Shirokov who is out for three weeks after suffering a hip injury in last week’s match with Terek Grozny, while their Italian left back Domenico Criscito is still short of full fitness.
Rostov are missing French forward Florent Sinama-Pongolle.