While the Foxes drew with Napoli and were defeated by Legia Warsaw in their opening two group games, they sealed a maiden victory in this season's competition by coming from behind to triumph 4-3 in Moscow last month. Patson Daka got all four goals for City.
Rui Vitória – A success in Portugal
Portuguese native Rui Vitória won several trophies as a coach before arriving in Russia.
Portuguese manager Rui Vitória became Spartak’s new head coach in May 2021, signing a two-year contract with the Russian club. To date, he has won seven and drawn two of his 15 games in charge.
During his playing days, Vitória, primarily a midfielder, represented five clubs in the third and fourth tiers in his native Portugal, spending eight years at U.D. Vilafranquense across two spells with the Lisbon side.
Vitória retired from playing aged 32, in 2003, and returned to manage Vilafranquense, ahead of time working with Benfica’s Under-19s.
He then helped Fátima reach the second tier of Portuguese football in his first season and though they were relegated the following year, he then led the team back to division two, as champions, in 2009.
After spending 2010/11 at Paços de Ferreira, during which they reached the Taça da Liga Final and finished seventh in the Primeira Liga - in his first season managing in the top division – Vitória arrived at Vitória de Guimarães. Across four seasons with Os Vimaranenses, he achieved Taça de Portugal glory, winning the Portuguese Cup for the first time in the club’s history in 2013.
His successes alerted Portuguese giants Benfica, who lured Vitória to Estádio da Luz in 2015. Two trophy-laden seasons followed, with back-to-back Primeira Liga titles and a league-record haul of 88 points in 34 games.
A new club record 11 successive away victories in all competitions was reached as Vitoria guided the club to the Taca de Liga Trophy at the end of his first campaign, along with reaching the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals.
Subsequently named the Primeria Liga’s Best Coach for the second consecutive year, he won the Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira to accomplish all four of Portugal’s major trophies as a coach. The 51-year-old then finished 2016/17 by lifting the Taça de Portugal and another Portuguese Super Cup to record Benfica's second treble in their history.
The Alverca do Ribatejo native also surpassed a 43-year-old record of 15 successive away league wins, before departing in January 2019. A stint at Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia, where he won the Saudi Professional League and Saudi Super Cup, preceded his move to Moscow.
The European record – Reaching the latter stages
The club are back in the UEFA Europa League after a two-year absence and defeated Napoli on matchday two.
Spartak Moscow’s first European campaign arrived in 1970/71 when they reached the first round proper of the European Cup, a competition they have qualified for on 16 occasions.
One of the most memorable runs in the club’s history came during the 1990/91 season, as they reached the semi-finals before a two-legged defeat to Marseille.
Though the last-four is the furthest Spartak have progressed in the tournament, they have made a further two quarter-finals appearances – in the UEFA Champions League in 1995/96 and when Spanish giants Real Madrid knocked them out in 1980/81.
The UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup also provided two impressive runs to the latter stages of a European competition, losing out to AC Milan in the 1972/73 quarter-final, before reaching the last four exactly 20 years later.
In the UEFA Cup, meanwhile, Krasno-Belye have featured in the quarter-finals twice, in 1983/84 and 2010/11, while an impressive 1997/98 campaign led to a semi-final meeting with Inter Milan, where they lost 4-2 on aggregate.
This is the club’s first involvement in the UEFA Europa League group stage since 2018/19, when they finished bottom of a pool containing Villarreal, Rapid Wien and Rangers, moving into the competition after losing out in the third qualifying round of the Champions League.
Spartak have played a total of 255 matches in European competition to date, triumphing on 109 occasions and drawing 57 times, with a win percentage of 43 per cent.
The squad – Plenty of experience
Victor Moses has played in both of Spartak's opening Europa League group stage fixtures this season.
Swedish forward Jordan Larsson finished 2020/21 as the side’s top goalscorer in the Russian Premier League with 15 goals, while striker Aleksandr Sobolev matched his tally across all competitions.
Those goals helped Spartak to finish second in the top division, eight points behind champions Zenit Saint Petersburg, but narrowly ahead of city rivals Lokomotiv Moscow.
Though the team is primarily made up of Russian nationals, a name familiar to followers of the Premier League is former Liverpool, Chelsea and West Ham United utility man Victor Moses. The Nigerian made his loan move permanent in the summer and has featured in 12 matches so far this term after scoring four times last season.
The only other pre-season arrival, Belgian defender Maximiliano Caufriez, arrived from Sint-Truidense VV. Czech Republic’s defensive midfielder Alex Kral departed Spartak for the Premier League, joining the Hammers on a season-long loan with an option to make the deal permanent.
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