After, one of Everton's best performances of the season against VFL Wolfsburg in the first game of Group H in the Europa League, we will be looking to take another step towards qualifying from the group with a result against FC Krasnodar on Thursday tea time. Everton travel to Russia with a few players light, as James McCarthy, Kevin Mirallas, Seamus Coleman and Steven Pienaar all didn't make the trip.
After researching Krasnodar and the city they play in, I've discovered that they base their team or club ethics on a massive youth setup. I noticed a lot of the income to the club is spent on training complexes and the youth academy itself. So much so that UEFA actually has Krasnodar on their list of teams with possible financial fair play breaches. A couple of questions on that; firstly, do you believe the youth system at Krasnodar has worked? And how do the clubs fans take to not having many big foreign names in their side?
The Krasnodar youth academy is an impressive and ambitious project, with thousands of young players training there. Its main base looks more like a top class, state of the art University campus than a football club set up. This has all been made possible to the club by billionaire owner Sergey Galitsky.
However, it's not all true that their current side is made up of all youth talent - the Krasnodar project is a long term one, with Galitsky's big dream being a side made up of academy graduates within a decade. Everton fans might see the likes of Brazilian Wanderson up front, who has scored lots of goals in recent years in Russia - though he did pick up a knock at the weekend. Another big name currently at Krasnodar, on loan from FC Porto, is Marat Ismaylov. He is enjoying something of a renaissance after a few difficult years.
With various political goings on around that part of Russia, you may struggle to see many Everton fans make the trip. Not only that, it requires a visa too amongst other things. What are you expecting come Thursday night?
For a club only formed in 2008, this is a big match for Krasnodar in their first ever European season. Travel is an issue with a visa alone costing around £100. But the region at the moment is pretty trouble free as I understand. Certainly, Krasnodar have a good relationship with the cities bordering, Kuban, and I don't recall any violent Incidents involving their fans (compared to, say, the Moscow clubs). I would hope that all Evertonians would be made to feel welcome - and I know from what he says in public, their owner feels this is the way it should be for any guests.
I noticed that Krasnodar managed a 1-1 draw away to Lille in the opening game of this years competition, that result certainly surprised a few Everton fans, as we had Lille down for the team to beat in the group. However, which player performed well in that game and which player or players would you say for Everton fans to watch out for this Thursday?
For me speaking as an impartial follower of Russian football, I wasn't surprised by the result. The Russian league has caught up with the French league to the point where they are now neck and neck in the UEFA coefficients. Money talks in football, of course - Krasnodar have plenty of that, and by and large use it well. Of the players to watch out for, as well as Wanderson and Ismaylov, Brazilian forward Ari can look a dangerous player. As I understand it, Lille were also impressed by Odil Ahmedov and Mauricio Pereyra.
As you may know, Everton is a club renowned for being one of English football's oldest clubs and we carry a lot of history. What kind of history does Krasnodar carry if any with their short life so far?
Krasnodar have very little history being founded in 2008. However, they were promoted through Russia's Third and Second tiers only by default, due to financial troubles refusing the opportunity of promotion. Having said that, they are well liked within Russia because Galitsky isn't splurging on big names to impress people but instead is building a football club from the foundations up - and bringing something to his local region. In Russian football, just as in any country these days, that's not often the case.
What position in the Russian league will Krasnodar be aiming for come the end of the season, and do you expect them to progress into the knock out stages of the Europa league? Everton will be expected to finish in the top 6 of the Premier League but as a fan I would love to see us finish in the top 4.
Krasnodar have had an okay, but not great, start to the season which sees them currently mid-table. Their owner has take some of the pressure of them by reminding the fans its a long-term project. But, Europe again is surely a target, which means a top 5 finish or a good Cup run. With teams such as Lokomotiv Moscow and Spartak Moscow in transition phases, its perfectly possible that Krasnodar will make the top 5.
Finally, enjoy the game on Thursday and I hope its an enjoyable match. I'll be shouting for Everton from a pub somewhere in Liverpool! What is your score prediction for the game? My head says 1-1, but my heart says 2-1 to Everton.
I agree with your prediction, though Krasnodar will be looking for the win. Having said that, I think Everton's greater experience will see them take at least one point... which will set you up nicely for the game at Goodison.
After hearing from Saul, who is a keen fan and knowledgeable on the Russian league, it sounds to me like Krasnodar haven't been getting the respect they deserve. This, after a weak show from Wolfsburg, could be our toughest game of the group on Thursday. Their team have a bit to prove to their fans after a shaky start to the season. Expect to see a packed stadium of around 32,000 tomorrow evening, possibly including workers from Galitsky's factories and soldiers bussed into the arena for the game.