Kuban out to revive European fortunes with victory at Liberty
KUBAN Krasnodar head for the Liberty tonight believing they can turn around a Europa League campaign which is threatening to fizzle out.
Like Swansea City, Kuban are getting their first taste of this competition having finished fifth in the Russian top flight last season.
But after coming through the qualifying stages with flying colours, Kuban have found life in Group A a real struggle.
Kuban entered the Europa League in the third qualifying round and saw off Scottish Premier League side Motherwell, winning 2-0 in Scotland and then 1-0 at home.
In the play-off round they faced a much more difficult task against Feyenoord, but this time they won the first leg 1-0 and then sealed their progress with a 2-1 win in Holland.
But things have since gone downhill dramatically, with Kuban going down 2-0 in their first pool game at St Gallen and then losing 2-0 at home to Valencia last time.
European failings coupled with some miserable domestic form — one win in their last seven Russian league games — means they will be under the guidance of a new manager tonight.
Viktor Goncharenko has arrived in Russia having done some remarkable things in his native Belarus with BATE Borisov.
He took the reins during the recent international break following the dismissal of Dorinel Munteanu, who only got the Kuban job in the summer.
"Munteanu did well. He put his heart into the job but everything depends on the results. We were forced to think about changes," said Kuban sporting director Sergei Doronchenko following the change at the top.
Goncharenko's first game in charge came at Dinamo Moscow last weekend.
Despite taking the lead, Kuban ended up losing 3-1 and having two men sent off.
There have been better managerial debuts, and Goncharenko must hope his second game in charge is a happier affair.
Unless Kuban get something tonight, they may be staring at Europa League elimination even with group games still to come.
But for the moment, Goncharenko's new team are staying upbeat.
"So far nothing is lost in the Europa League, there are four games to go," points out defender Maxim Zhavnerchik.
The most familiar face in the Kuban line-up will be Djibril Cisse, who last lined up against Swansea for Queens Park Rangers on the opening day of last season.
Michael Laudrup has not forgotten how that one ended. Cisse will be keen to avoid anything remotely similar tonight.