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Everton vs Krasnodar: Q&A with Saul Pope

We once again speak to our man in the know with Russian football, Saul Pope, as he gives us the low down to the Krasnodar side. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @SaulPope

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Tomorrow sees Everton take part in our final Europa League game in this current calendar year and indeed the last group game as well, before we enter the knockout round.

Since we last spoke we have still failed to see Everton hit the rhythm of last season in the Premier League. How about Krasnodar, how have they performed in Russia and how are they placed in their league table?

We are now into the winter break in Russia and Krasnodar limped into that at the weekend by being thumped 4-0 at Zenit St. Petersburg. Having said that, they are having a good season, and go into the break in 4th place. With Lokomotiv and Spartak below them looking rather inconsistent, I think they'll be hopeful of another European place in 2014-15.

*NB - Zenit have since dropped out of the Champions League and enter the Europa League draw

After we scraped a draw in Russia, we learnt a lot about the Russian side. They are very strong defensively and play some nice football if you allow them. They took one of only a few chances against Everton. With Everton making a heap of changes can you see Krasnodar causing something of an upset?

I can't see a surprise if I'm honest, due to Krasnodar's lack of European experience at this level as much as anything. But this is a club that seems to have great pride in itself, having come so far in such a short space of time. Don't expect an upset, but don't expect much from players already thinking of their winter holiday in the Caribbean either.

It was brilliant to see the Russian soldiers gathered inside the Kuban stadium, singing songs and having a good time away from their duties, it was a different experience for our club and fans alike. Are there any players that have been in good form for Krasnodar that may be worth watching out for at Goodison?

Two Brazilians, Joazinho and Ari, continue to catch the eye - the latter in particular has been connected with getting Russian citizenship and then playing for Russia.

A Russian player who's really improved is midfielder Yuriy Gazinskiy, who has been recently called up to the national side - many neutrals as well as Krasnodar fans felt this was well-deserved.

With Krasnodar not able to qualify for the knockout stages of this years Europa League and their owners keen interest in bringing through young talent, do you think we might see a different and maybe young side travel to Merseyside tomorrow?

The young talent at Krasnodar is still largely too young to be ready for a game like this, I think. One big player who won't be there, however, is Ari. He's getting married during the winter break, and has been given the game off to prepare. As he's marrying a Russian he'll then be applying for the Russian citizenship which would allow him to play for Russia.

Thanks for your time Saul, enjoy the game if you get chance to watch it... I'm unsure of what the score might be come Thursday evening do to the changes we are due to make, so my prediction is a complete stab in the dark! I'm going with a 2-0 Everton victory... What do you think the final score will be?

I agree with you - 2-0 to Everton!

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For anything and everything to do with Russian football Saul is by and far the man to go to! You can find him on Twitter @SaulPope and on his blog, however Russian football is on its winter break as of last weekend, as Saul mentioned in his answers above.