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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hopes High for Thrilling Season

Snow still blankets the stadiums, the temperature is stuck below zero and the only green visible in Moscow will be on St. Patrick's Day in a week's time. In other words, the Russian soccer season is about to begin.

Five out of the eight Premier League games this weekend will take place in Moscow and although stadiums are unlikely to be full, the season promises to be one of the most exciting and open in recent years, with champion Lokomotiv, CSKA, Zenit and Krylia Sovietov all contenders and Spartak and Dynamo possible dark horses after splurging on a series of signings.

Only last week, CSKA bolstered its lineup by signing Brazilian midfielder Dudu from Japanese club Kashiwz Reysol. He will join fellow Brazilians currently playing for the side, Daniel Carvalho and Vagner Love.

Love was the cause of controversy earlier this year when he told journalists during a visit to his home country that he was planning to defect to Brazilian team Corinthians. However, he has since returned and played in the CSKA side that defeated Benfica to reach the second knockout round of the UEFA Cup.

Another incentive is that the top two teams in this championship will qualify for the Champions League, so that teams can dream of earning some of the money they have spent this year.

Lokomotiv and CSKA, which came first and second respectively last season, will play the newly promoted sides, Tomsk and Terek.

Tom Tomsk, the first Siberian team to play in the league since the early 1990s, will travel nearly 3,000 kilometers to take on Lokomotiv.

Many eyes will be on last year's first division champion, Terek, the team from Grozny that will play its home games in Kislovodsk. Terek's first match will be away against CSKA on Sunday.

Terek, which lost 1-0 to Lokomotiv last Sunday, has spent heavily on experienced players, including potential top goal-scorer Andrei Fedkov, and could be a dark horse bet for a top five place.

Terek's Russian Cup final win last year came just a few weeks after the assassination of its club president, Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov.

The most intriguing team is Dynamo, which, after narrowly escaping relegation last year, has gone on a spending spree funded by Monaco-based businessman Alexei Fedorychev. The new signings include seven players from the Portuguese national team, and they could be joined this summer by Euro 2004 stars Maniche and Costinha, also from Portugal. How the Portuguese will cope with the weather and the terrible early-season pitches remains to be seen.

Spartak's former coach, Oleg Romantsev, will try to restore his reputation at Dynamo, whilst Latvian Alexander Starkov needs to impress this year at Spartak. Dynamo will play in St. Petersburg against Zenit, while Spartak plays Moskva on Saturday.