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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Derby Pits Russia's Top 2 Sides




Russia's league season comes to a head Saturday derby when Spartak can all but clinch the title in a Moscow against army club CSKA.


Spartak, winners of five of the six post-Soviet titles, have a nine-point cushion over CSKA with five matches remaining. Anything but defeat would almost certainly mean the league trophy remains in Spartak's grasp for the third year running.


Two months ago, a Spartak victory would have seemed a formality as CSKA hovered near relegation.


But under new manager Oleg Dolmatov, CSKA is a team on fire.


It has won seven league games in a row f scoring 17 goals while conceding none f and climbed to second. The away game will be a real test for Spartak, only four days before it hosts European champion Real Madrid in the Champions League.


The champion has not been at best in recent weeks, knocked out of the Russian Cup at second division Ankar Perm and held 1-1 at home last week by midtable Rostselmash Rostov.


Coming back from the brink of disaster in the best traditions of the Red Army, CSKA has survived the firing of former Soviet coach Pavel Sadyrin and a series of bitter rows involving its military masters to put together an impressive string of victories.


Add in a cup tie and they have won eight in a row f without conceding a single goal.


CSKA will be at full strength on Saturday, including their trio of Russian internationals f Valery Minko, Yevgeny Varlamov and captain Sergei Semak f who all played in Russia's 1-0 friendly defeat in Spain on Wednesday.


Spartak, however, will be without striker Alexander Shirko, who is out for four weeks with a knee injury, as well as influential Belarussian midfielder Miroslav Romashchenko, who picked up a knee injury two weeks ago playing against Denmark.


At the other end of the table, Dynamo, the only side never to have played in a lower division in the 62 years of Russian and Soviet soccer, is involved in an uncomfortable three-way race to avoid joining already-relegated Tyumen in the drop.


The police side, which was challenging for the title this time last year but is now fourth from the bottom, travels to Rostov.


Three points behind it, Baltika Kaliningrad travels to Rotor Volgograd, which is third and level on points with CSKA, while third-from-bottom Chernomorets Novorossiisk hosts Uralan Elista.


Meanwhile, in Madrid, Spain, Celta Vigo's Russia international striker Valery Karpin has been banned for four matches for spitting at an opponent in a first division match Sunday.


Karpin learned of the ban shortly before he took the field in Russia's friendly international against Spain in Granada on Wednesday.


The Spanish football federation banned Karpin after studying a video of the incident in which Karpin spat at Valladolid midfielder Dragan Isailovic during their 0-0 draw.