#19 – SEASON 9 WINTER BREAK – FC RUBIN KAZAN

With the previous season’s highs and lows now firmly in the past, it was time for Daniil to shift his focus to the present. Yet another summer transfer window approached, and with a Champions League debut on the cards, Daniil’s recruitment was going to be vital.

Daniil was notified of the board’s intentions to reach the Champions League group stages, and with 2 qualifiers to navigate, it was going to be tricky. £8.25 million in the kitty to spend, with some money due to go out following some pre-contract deals and compensation, agreed during the previous season, Daniil had a keen eye scouring the world for bargains.

Abner was available for a small release clause of £2.3 million, and Daniil was delighted to bring in a starter at left wing-back and a fellow compatriot for hot prospect Pedro. Sergey was brought in as the immediate backup to Velásquez, as Daniil struggled towards the tail-end of the previous season for the Colombian’s fitness – Sergey would slot into that position seamlessly.

Following Lokomotiv Moscow’s demise into administration, there was a bit of a firesale in place. Andrey was signed whilst Daniil did take a look through the full crop, the young Russian was the only one that grabbed his attention. Not amazing, but with the right development, could be an option on the bench to satisfy home-grown rules.

And that was Daniil in terms of transfers; his biggest priority this summer was to keep a hold of his top assets, and in doing so, this window was going down as a success. However, this was not to be after Real Sociedad met Roberto’s £10 million release clause, and one vital piece of the front four was taken out. With Daniil’s transfer business concluded until the winter, it was time for him to get his ideas across to the new boys and strive his players to push one another in what was going to be a difficult season.


UEFA Champions League

Entering into the League Path qualifying rounds of the Champions League, Daniil knew that he was going to have 2 tricky qualifiers to navigate should everything go to plan. He had been preparing his players for these games, and when KRC Genk was pulled from the hat, at the expense of Olympiacos, Daniil knew that the second-best Belgian side was going to be a tough nut to crack.

A comfortable first-leg victory in Genk filled Daniil with confidence, perhaps too much confidence, after being on the wrong side of an entertaining 4-3 scoreline. However, with the damage done in the first leg, it was too much of a climb for Genk to turn around, meaning Daniil and Kazan would go toe to toe with either AS Monaco or FC Utrecht in the playoff – regardless of who made it through, it was going to be another difficult tie.

FC Utrecht had managed to hold Monaco to a stalemate in Monaco and nabbed a 1-0 victory in Holland to secure passage to the playoff, but unfortunately for the Dutch, the Russians were far too strong home and away.

Daniil had taken Kazan to their first-ever Group Stage appearance, and the £12.65 million they would receive for just competing was an added bonus. 3 Russian representations in at this stage, Dinamo and Zenit being first and third seeds respectively, it was going to be a big ask of the Russian clubs to compete. But could any of them go on to shock some of Europe’s giants?

However, for the young Russian manager, his Champions League dream was over on the final day. An impressive opening win against holders Manchester City was followed up with a 3-3 draw in Dortmund. Kazan was unfortunate to then lose heavily at home 6-3 against the Germans before Sevilla shattered hearts in the final fixture with a narrow 1-0 victory; a win would have seen Kazan drop into the Europa League.

Daniil was disappointed that the European adventure would not continue into the New Year. But with flashbacks to last season with the number of games, perhaps this was going to be a blessing? With both Zenit and Dinamo qualifying for the next stage, Daniil knew that he had to take advantage of their fixture pile-up.


Russian Premier League

Coming off the back of European success and a successful pre-season, it was time for Daniil’s Kazan side to prove that they are up for the fight with Dinamo and Zenit to be seen as one of the biggest clubs in Russian football. With continental football to contend with, Kazan did show signs of falling to the wayside, but thankfully, were quick enough to right the wrongs of the previous game-week.

An impressive start to the season saw 3 wins on the bounce scoring 10 in the process, which set up a tasty affair with Dinamo Moscow in Moscow. A game that was constantly back and forth between the two sides, Dinamo eventually edged out a 5-3 result which went down as one of the best games in recent Russian footballing history.

Bouncing back from this result was going to be imperative; thankfully for Daniil, Dinamo had started the season slowly so that result was just to catch up and not pull further in front. Kazan recorded 4 wins on the bounce, scoring 19 in that time including an 8-1 thrashing of Spartak Moscow, who were leading the league before this game. Kazan then went on to host Zenit in a top of the table clash and could class themselves unfortunate not to win the game, as Zenit snuck out the back door with a point; scoring in the last 5 minutes without creating too much during the game.

However, with shock defeats away to financially stricken Lokomotiv Moscow and Krasnodar, 2-1 and 4-0 respectively, these were major setbacks for Kazan’s title push and Daniil knew that he would be chasing the pack for some time.

Winter recruitment just went to the top of the list for Daniil as he began his potential list that would help close this gap. With a massive game against Dinamo Moscow being the first game back, it was important that whoever came in, was up to speed with the team and system by the 3rd of March – Dinamo have a first leg tie a couple of weeks before this meeting, so their sharpness could be making its way back.

With a mid-season training camp booked in the United Arab Emirates, Daniil was keen to get some warm weather training into the boys and work them to the ground. They had to be hungrier when the league starts back up; a league push is at stake along with that elusive Russian Cup. Daniil was hungry to turn this season into a success, perhaps his number one winter target could take Kazan one step further forward?

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