Tambov travels to Ak Bars Arena on Sunday evening - the home of Rubin Kazan - hoping to experience an upturn in fortune, having lost four of its opening five Russian Premier League matches.
Rubin Kazan started the season in underwhelming fashion but has managed to win the last two matches, and the players are finally feeling confident about their qualities. Now, the home team is placed 10th on the table - a familiar place in the standings for the team in the last five seasons.
Visitoring Tambov has lost four of its opening five games, with the solitary win coming against Khimki. Goals have proven hard to come by for manager Sergei Pervushin's team, as only bottom-placed Rotor has scored fewer. Pervushin's defenders haven't fared much better, conceding the second-most goals in the league of any team.
Rubin Kazan vs Tambov head-to-head
There's not much inference to be drawn from the previous meetings of these two clubs, as the sample space is far too small. Kazan have battled Tambov only three times before, winning one and drawing the other two 0-0. Tambov was founded only seven years ago and did not make it to Russia's first division until 2019.
There's no denying that Rubin Kazan has a far superior team on paper, trained by one of the country's most experienced coaches in Leonid Slutsky. Tambov, on the other hand, has former player Sergei Pervushin at the helm and a squad of capable but relatively inexperienced players combined with some who are past their prime.
Rubin Kazan form: W-W-L-D-L
Tambov form: L-L-W-L-L
Rubin Kazan vs Tambov team news
Owing to star midfielder Oleg Shatov's return from injury, Leonid Slutsky now has a fully fit squad to work with. The 30-year-old has shown glimpses of his brilliance after returning to the starting XI, playing an instrumental role in his team's two recent victories.
The 22-year-old attacking midfielder Denis Makarov is the latest sensation in a Rubin Kazan team that has cried out for a star creator-cum-goalscorer ever since it lost Sardar Azmoun to Zenit St. Petersburg. The 'super-sub' has come off the bench to score three crucial goals in the last two games, including an injury-time winner against CSKA Moscow.
The visiting side has no injury or suspension worries of its own. It will be a special evening for 39-year-old Tambov goalkeeper Sergey Ryzhikov, who will be facing his old club, for whom he made over 280 league appearances in 10 years. He will hope for ample support from the back five, led by 37-year-old Adessoye Oyewole and 30-year-old Nikita Chicherin.
Rubin Kazan vs Tambov predicted XI
Rubin Kazan predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Yury Dyupin; Aleksandr Zuyev; Filip Uremović; Carl Starfelt; Mikhail Merkulov; Darko Jevtić; Oliver Abildgaard; Soltmurad Bakayev; Oleg Shatov; Khvicha Kvaratskhelia; Ivan Ignatyev.
Tambov predicted XI (5-3-2): Sergey Ryzhikov; Aleksei Vladimirovich Rybin; Nikita Chicherin; Aleksei Gritsayenko; Adessoye Oyewole; Oleksandr Kapliyenko; Valeriu Ciupercă; Guram Tetrashvili; Mikhail Kostyukov; Vladimir Obukhov; Alexander Karapetyan.
Rubin Kazan vs Tambov prediction
It is difficult not to picture Rubin Kazan grabbing a comfortable win at home. Tambov haven't showed any positive signs defensively or offensively, and Leonid Slutsky is far too good a manager to get outplayed by a significantly inferior roster.
Kazan should have a healthy majority of the ball, and if they manage to score first, the visitors will find it very difficult to get back into the game. The home team can also bring on some very talented fresh legs off the bench to see the game out without suffering any major hiccups.
If Tambov is to get anything from their trip, its players will have to be a lot more aggressive. The attacking players will need to genuinely attempt to score from the counter-attacks and not be passive when they do get the ball.
Prediction: Rubin Kazan 2-0 Tambov.