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CSKA out to stay top ahead of winter break

8 December 2012-AFP

Three-time former champion CSKA Moscow is well set to finish the year as table-topper in the Russian Premier League as it takes on bottom-side Saransk at home.

The league goes into the winter break after this weekend's action and does not take up again until March.

CSKA will still be without injured forwards Tomas Necid, Seydou Doumbia and Marc Gonzalez, but manager Leonid Slutsky will be able to welcome back from suspension Alan Dzagoev and Swedish stopper Pontus Wernbloom for the Saturday match.

CSKA lost 2-0 last weekend to big-spending Anzhi Makhachkala, who drew level with the Moscow club with that win.

Anzhi, though, is facing a tough test on Monday, when it visits reigning champion Zenit Saint Petersburg in a match to be played behind closed doors.

Zenit, who is third in the table, three points behind CSKA and Anzhi, will be without its Russian international midfielder Roman Shirokov, who received a fourth booking in the match against Spartak in Moscow.

Brazilian striker Hulk, who has been in dispute with Zenit manager Luciano Spalletti after he was substituted in Tuesday's UEFA Champions League match with AC Milan, is also uncertain as a starter in Monday's clash with the Makhachkala side.

Meanwhile, Anzhi, who suffered a deflating 3-1 Europa League defeat on Thursday, will be without midfielder Oleg Shatov, who also has to serve a one-match ban after receiving his fourth yellow card in the match against CSKA.

Anzhi will try to record its first ever win at Saint Petersburg as, in the previous six meetings between the two sides there, the host Zenit has won three with three draws.

Nine-time former champion Spartak Moscow will be without Nigerian forward Emmanuel Emenike and two Argentinian defenders Nicolas Pareja and Juan Insaurralde for the match with Rubin Kazan on Monday for disciplinary reasons.

Rubin will miss Venezuelan striker Salomon Rondon, who also received his fourth booking in the match with Dynamo a week ago.

Dynamo Moscow, who is gradually rebounding from a poor start to the season under its influential Romanian coach Dan Petrescu, will be looking to record a fifth straight win as it travels to take on fourth-placed Terek Grozny.

"We are currently in terrific form and it's a bit disappointing that the league takes a break exactly at this time," Dynamo's German forward Kevin Kuranyi told Izvestia daily.

"There's a very good chemistry now in the dressing room and that's the main reason for our success in recent matches."

"We are currently well behind the league leaders but we are all set to work hard during the break and, I hope, we will manage to catch up the leading trio."

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