Anyone who knows about Russian football will know that Moscow pretty much runs football in Russia with 4 teams in the top division. These are obviously CSKA, Spartak, Lokomotiv and Dinamo. Out of these 4 teams, Spartak are the most famous with 9 league titles but their last title was back in the 2001 season.
In recent times, however, 2 outsiders of Moscow have been on top of Russia. Zenit St Petersburg won their first league title in 2007 and they followed it up by winning the 2007/2008 Uefa Cup. In the 2008 and 2009 seasons, Rubin Kazan suprised everyone in Russia by winning the league. Not know for having an impressive squad of superstars, Rubin make up for it with a good squad ethic and commitment. Led by experienced Turkmenian coach Kurban Berdyev, who has been in charge since 2001, Berdyev has taken Rubin from the 2nd division of Russian football all the way to the top of Russian football.
Last season however, Zenit St Petersburg under the wiley Italian coach Luciano Spalletti, known for pioneering the fluid strikerless formation, and backed by rich owners won the league very impressively. Watching Zenit is just like watching Roma from a few years ago. Very fluid passing team who play a 4-2-3-1 formation without a natural target man up front. Kerzhakov is the talisman in attack playing the Francesco Totti striker role. Wheras Totti used to drop deep to allow the midfielders to move ahead of him, Kerzhakov plays the role slightly differently. He comes outwide, Thierry Henry-esqe, this allows the usual 3 of Bystrov, Danny and Lazovic to make intelligent runs forward.
The 2011 season has started with a few suprises. Zenit and CSKA Moscow are, as expected, leading the way with Rubin Kazan in third. The next few places would be expected to host the other 3 Moscow teams but at the moment suprised package, Anzhi Makhachkala are in 5th place. Anzhi are owned by Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov and with money to burn are suprising everyone. Legend Roberto Carlos is the captain of the team and plays as the defensive midfielder in the teams 4-1-4-1/4-2-3-1 formation. The team also features exciting Brazilian players Jucilei and Diego Tardelli and Moroccan Mbark Boussoufa. The recent acquisition of Hungarian Balazs Dzsudzsak from Dutch giants PSV shows they mean business this season. A top 6 finish for Anzhi will be a good basis for them to build on.
The Russian league is now slowly changing from being Moscow run. Zenit, Rubin and Anzhi are the future of Russian football. CSKA are still going strong, Lokomotiv and Dinamo are slowly getting back into business and the famous Spartak will hope to bounce back sooner rather than later and for their sake I hope they do. All of this put together makes the Russian league a very exciting league.
When the new format comes into play in August 2012, the Russian league will be running from August to May like every other major league. This is a better format to the normal March to November with a few months break in the summer.
The Russian league is back to it's strong best and I for one am delighted with it.