Spartak Moscow: Scouting report on Rangers' next Europa League opponents

Spartak Moscow celebrate
Spartak Moscow have had an indifferent season so far but are still in contention domestically and in Europe
Europa League: Rangers v Spartak Moscow
Venue: Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow Date: Thursday, 25 October Kick-off: 20:00 BST
Coverage: Updates on Radio Scotland 810MW/DAB/online; text commentary on BBC Sport website & app

Rangers' next Europa League opponents have just sacked their manager.

Sound familiar? It should. Massimo Carrera has left Spartak Moscow in similar fashion to the way in which Goran Djuricin exited Rapid Vienna before they travelled to Ibrox earlier this month.

Such turmoil is not in keeping with the resurgence Spartak have enjoyed in recent years. Russian champions as recently as 2017, they have competed in Europe this season and last following a three-year absence.

It would be foolish to suggest the Moscow side's domestic and European ambitions are beyond repair and a change at managerial level relatively early in the season may give them the impetus they have lacked in recent months.

What is Spartak's form like?

Spartak have won successive matches only once this season and, even if they beat Rangers on Thursday, that stat still stand after a 3-2 home defeat by Arsenal Tula on Sunday brought an end to Italian Carrera's two-year reign.

It was their third defeat in the Russian Premier League this season and their fifth in all competitions.

Their first was in the Champions League qualifying rounds - 3-2 away to PAOK. That proved to be the aggregate score, prompting their entry to the Europa League, where they have lost to Rapid Vienna and drawn with Villarreal to sit bottom of Group G. But they are just three points off leaders Rangers.

Domestically, their form has been mixed with five wins and three draws from 11 played, leaving them seventh in the table and seven points off leaders Zenit St Petersburg. Not irretrievable by any means and the three sides ahead of Spartak are only edging them on goal difference, while both CSKA Moscow and Krasnodar are one point in front of that group.

However, the apparent malaise affecting Spartak may have set in towards the end of last season when they lost three of their final five games, having gone unbeaten in the division for eight months.

Who are the players to watch?

Ze Luis playing for Spartak Moscow against Villarreal
Ze Luis (far right) is bearing the burden of goals for Spartak Moscow

Ze Luis: The club's top scorer this season with eight goals, including two against Villarreal. The Cape Verde forward has become the club's main source of goals following the departure of last season's top scorer Quincy Promes, who left for Sevilla on the final day of August.

Aleksandr Maksimenko: If Rangers are to score on Thursday, they will need to beat goalkeeper Maksimenko. The 20-year-old is a Russia Under-21 international and has become first choice this season after graduating from fedder club Spartak-2 Moscow. He has kept five clean sheets in 15 appearances.

Roman Zobnin: The midfielder played every minute in Russia's journey to the World Cup quarter-finals and has appeared in all of Spartak's matches so far this campaign - a feat matched only by Brazilian defensive midfielder Fernando.

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