Everything Rangers fans need to know about Europa League opponents Spartak Moscow

Spartak Moscow are put through their paces at Ibrox. Picture: SNS Group
Spartak Moscow are put through their paces at Ibrox. Picture: SNS Group
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As Rangers host Spartak Moscow in Europa League Group G, we take a closer look at the Russians

Who are they?

One of four top flight Moscow clubs along with CSKA, Dinamo and Lokomotiv, Spartak were founded in 1922 and can boast an impressive history, with 13 Soviet Top League titles, nine Russian Premier League titles, ten Soviet Cup wins and three Russian Cup wins.

Spartak finished third last year and first in 2016/17, but before that their last title win was 2001 - although they did record three consecutive second place finishes between 2005 and 2007 and also secured the runners-up spot in 2009 and 2011/12.

They won three consecutive league titles between 1992 and 1994, and a further six between 1996 and 2001.

Who’s in charge?

Fitness coach Raul Riancho - because Spartak sacked their Italian boss Massimo Carrera on Monday.

Carrera - Antonio Conte’s right-hand man at Juventus and the Italian national team - took the job in 2016 and made an immediate impact as he led Spartak to their first league crown in 16 years.

But they could only finish third last term and have made a slow start to the current campaign, with their weekend defeat to Arsenal Tula spelling the end of his two-and-a-half-year reign.

Fitness coach Raul Riancho has now been placed in temporary command and while the Spaniard has never managed in his own right, he has previously been the number two at Dynamo Kiev and with Ukraine.

What sort of form are they in?

Carrera paid the price for a sorry run of form that began when they were dumped out of the Champions League qualifiers by Greek side PAOK Salonika.

Victory in the Moscow derby against Dynamo Moscow and a decent goalless draw away to league leaders Zenit St Petersburg relieved some of the pressure but back-to-back defeats against Terek Grozny and then Rapid Vienna in their Europa League opener again put the Italian on the back foot.

Sunday’s 3-2 defeat at home to Arsenal Tula - their fourth defeat in eight games - was the final straw as Carrera’s side sank to seventh - seven points adrift of Zenit.

They are also propping up Group G with just a solitary point, and have a bit of a reputation for being poor travellers in Europe. Their only overseas win in the last seven years came against Athletic Bilbao in the last 32 of last season’s Europa League but still wasn’t enough to spare them a 4-3 aggregate defeat.

How have they fared against Scottish opposition?

Spartak have never faced the blue half of Glasgow before but they have squared up to Rangers’ Old Firm rivals Celtic on four previous occasions.

Their first showdown came in a 2007 Champions League qualifier, with Paul Hartley’s strike earning the Hoops a 1-1 draw in Moscow. The second leg also ended as a 1-1 draw before Artur Boruc pulled off two shootout saves to steer Gordon Strachan’s side into the group stages.

Celtic grabbed their first-ever away win in the Champions League group stage five years later as Georgios Samaras netted a last-gasp winner to seal a 3-2 triumph over Spartak. Neil Lennon’s team made it home and away wins when a late Kris Commons penalty sealed a 2-1 win in Glasgow and a place in the last 16.

Rangers have faced Russian opposition on 12 occasions, coming out on top seven times - most notably their 1972 triumph over Dynamo in the final of the Cup Winners’ Cup. They have already knocked Spartak’s compatriots Ufa out of the competition this term.

Who are the key players?

Cape Verde international Ze Luis leads the scoring charts for Spartak this season with eight goals.

The former Braga frontman made the move to Russia in 2015 but managed just 15 goals in his first two years with the club.

This season, though, he has hit a rich vein of form. He struck twice against Villarreal as the Spaniards were held to a 3-3 draw in their last Europa League outing and followed that up with another against Yenisey Krasnoyarsk.

Midfielder Roman Eremenko is the brother of former Kilmarnock star Alexei while Georgi Dzhikiya, Roman Zobnin, Aleksandr Selikhov, Ilya Kutepov, Dmitri Kombarov, Denis Glushakov and Aleksandr Samedov have all been called up by the Russian national team in the last year.