Tha Sports Junkies 101

FC Rostov: The Russian Leicester

Photo credit to Petr Simanov via Flickr


Manchester United will have its hands full with Russian Premier League FC Rostov, known as the Russian Leicester

Manchester, England – Manchester United will be overwhelming favorites when they take on FC Rostov in the Europa League last 16, but the Russian Premier League outfit must not be under estimated if the past 12 months have been anything to go by.

After finishing 14th and having to win a play-off game to stay in the country’s top division in the 2014/15 season, the Selmashi were barely looking for a top half finish let alone a European spot.

What unfolded the following was jaw-dropping. The East Russian side gathered 18 points from their first 10 games – a 13-point increase from the same stage the season prior.

Incredibly, despite only winning 6 games in the league in the 2014/15 season, Rostov went throughout the whole of the last campaign without losing two games consecutively.

In fact, Kurban Berdyev’s men only lost 4 games throughout the whole of last season and, apart from the 3-0 loss to Zenit St Petersburg, they never lost by more than one goal.

One reason for this was the amount of clean sheets first choice goalkeeper Soslan Dzhanayev kept. The home-bred custodian managed to keep the ball out of his net for 14 of the 30 league games.

With the team in form, Berdyev took the club with firm grip, guiding the team to 2nd place, their highest finish in the clubs’ history, and just one win from the title itself. You could argue they were one step off being Russia’s Leicester City.

Expecting nothing but hoping everything, two months later the club took on Belgium giants Anderlecht in a Champions League qualifier with new manager Ivan Daniliants in the dugout after Berdyev stepped down to become vice-president of the club.

Rostov produced their first giant-killing of the term as they triumphed 4-2 on aggregate with European stalwarts Ajax awaiting them in the play-offs.

After holding the Dutch side to a 1-all draw in the first away leg, Rostov tore a demising Frank de Boer side to shreds, with the hosts running out 4-0 victors producing one of the clubs’ most historic nights as they for the first time qualified not only for the Champions League but for any European competition.

Although they failed to win any of their first four group games, the biggest fish in the competition was to be unexpectedly fried by the men in blue.

Rostov welcomed Bayern Munich to a 16,000 capacity sell out Olimp-2 stadium for the teams’ biggest game of the decade bar none. Aided by fan atmosphere and spirit, Rostov beat a well-fielded Bayern Munich to claim their win ever win in Europe.

Despite not accumulating enough points to qualify out of the group stages, they did finish above a renowned club in PSV Eindhoven of Holland to qualify for the Europa League knock-out stages.

They promptly eased past Sparta Prague 5-1 on aggregate in the latest stage of their European journey and now are up against another world giant in Manchester United.

This season hasn’t quite been the same as last in domestic terms as they sit 7th in the league table, however could this be argued that they in fact coped with their European debut better than Leicester City who are currently battling relegation?

Despite hauling 9 clean sheets thus far this current season, they have only managed one in both the 6 Champions League and the 2 Europa League ties.

They have only scored two away goals in this time and one would think, despite this fairytale, if Rostov are to make it through then getting some kind of result at Old Trafford is imperative. This will prove hard when your back four are facing players of the calibre of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney.

Is this the next stage of victory in their quest or will this be the hurdle they finally fall at?

Find out when Manchester United host FC Rostov on Thursday 9th March in the first leg before the return leg on March 16th.