Russian football Russian Premier League

5 reasons to watch the 2018-19 Russian Premier League

10:52 PMGoalChatter



by Aleks V

Lights, camera, football. In post-World Cup Russia, the beautiful game is seeing a revival of sorts, with an energy and passion among fans rarely seen since the Soviet era. A wonderful truth, or an exaggeration? There's only one way to find out, and that's by tuning in.

Here are five reasons why you should be watching the 2018-19 Russian Premier League.

1. Sergei Semak
Photo: FC Zenit
Zenit St. Petersburg is the team to beat in the race for the championship, with one of the biggest squads in the tournament (28 players) and a talented head coach in Sergei Semak. Zenit's first Russian manager (not counting his own interim spell in 2014) in nearly a decade, Semak has already earned the respect of his players and seems to be adept at handling the superstar roster, something his predecessors have been unable to do. A former Zenit player himself, he may very well be Stanislav Cherchesov's successor at the helm of team Russia.

2. FC Yenisey
If you're looking for an underdog to cheer on this season, look no further than FC Yenisey Krasnoyarsk. The club, which is playing in Russia's top flight for the first time in its 81-year history, debuted with a 2-0 home loss to Zenit. Its social media banter, with references to everything from Russian pop culture to the History Channel ancient aliens meme and Fortnite, can give the bigger clubs a run for their money. Fun fact: FC Yenisey also has a women's team.

3. Uber transfers
All eyes are on Benedikt Höwedes, Grzegorz KrychowiakJoãozinho, and Róbert Mak, four of the RPL's biggest summer transfers.

After spending over a decade of his professional career at Schalke, centre-back Höwedes bid farewell to his boyhood club, joining reigning RPL champion Lokomotiv Moscow. He was one of just three players to feature in all seven games of Germany's 2014 World Cup-winning squad. With silverware from the Bundesliga and Serie A, the defender brings plenty of experience to the pitch. 

The Railroaders added to their star-studded roster with the signing of Polish international Krychowiak on a season-long loan. The 28-year-old midfielder featured in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, scoring a header against Senegal and proving a key distributor for his team during its run in the tournament.

Meanwhile, Brazilian winger Joãozinho, who spent seven years at FC Krasnodar, left the Bulls to join Dynamo Moscow on a one-year contract. A Russian citizen since 2016, he tallied 27 goals and 55 assists in 177 RPL games for Krasnodar.

The return of winger Róbert Mak to Zenit from his loan at PAOK was a welcome addition. The Slovak is one of only two wingers at the club's disposal, making him a valuable asset and almost guaranteeing him a coveted spot in the starting XI.

4. RPL rebrand


Russia's top league got a new look thanks to Art. Lebedev Studio. The RPL's new logo follows in the footsteps of the English Premier League by using an animal - appropriately, a bear. The fierce-looking pentagonal creature with triangular eyes complements the geometric patterns used in soccer balls. It utilizes the colors of Russia's flag and is flanked by dynamic diagonals when used in backgrounds. The rebrand launched in tandem with a new TV channel, Match Premier, which airs the league's games.

5. World Cup fever 
Photo: cherve4og via Instagram
Across Russian football, attendance is on the rise, in large part due to new stadiums, improved infrastructure, and some newly-converted fans after the 2018 World Cup. The July 29 Football National League (tier 2) match between Mordovia Saransk and Krasnodar II was attended by nearly 25,000 fans, more than Krasnodar's first team's RPL game against Rubin (about 14,000).

The first eight games of the 2018-19 RPL registered 169,600 fans in the stands - a record start, and a 71% increase from the previous season.

Catch the Russian Premier League on Sportbox.ru, Match Premier, and Match TV.

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