Brazil striker Hulk had his first training session Thursday since joining Zenit St. Petersburg as the Russian champions gear up for a top-of-the-table Russian Premier League match against Terek Grozny on Friday.
Hulk and fellow new signing Axel Witsel, bought for a total of €80 million, could debut in Friday’s match in St. Petersburg, which pits the dominant hosts against Terek, who have stunned observers by taking second place, level on points with leaders Zenit on 16 points from seven games.
Terek will be without influential Polish midfielder Maciej Rybus, who is out for the next three months with an ankle injury, but his hurriedly-signed emergency replacement Maciej Makuszewski could play.
There may also be a start for new striker Ailton, who scored in a friendly against Turkey’s Sivasspor on Sunday in his first game since joining Terek from Cypriot team APOEL Nicosia.
Saturday sees two more big games as Lokomotiv Moscow host Rubin Kazan before Spartak Moscow visit FC Kuban.
After a confidence-boosting 2-1 win over Spartak in their last league game, Slaven Bilic’s fifth-placed Lokomotiv will be able to call on the services of Swiss left-back Reto Ziegler, on loan from Juventus, who was due to train with the team for the first time Thursday.
The match could also see a return for Brazil midfielder Carlos Eduardo, who has been out with injury since soon after joining Rubin for a reported €20 million euro in 2010. He was on the bench for eighth-placed Rubin in their 2-1 defeat to Terek last time out, but may feature Saturday.
Despite his time sitting a lowly seventh in the league, Spartak coach Unai Emery may decide to rest players against Kuban to focus on his team’s trip to Barcelona on Tuesday in their first Champions League group stage appearance since 2007.
Sixth-placed Kuban’s new attacking signings Ivelin Popov, Aras Ozbiliz and Ibrahima Balde combined well in their 2-1 win at Dynamo Moscow in their last game, with Ozbiliz coming off the bench to score the winner, but that is their only experience of playing together.
CSKA Moscow, sitting third, host Alania Vladikavkaz on Sunday and could leapfrog Zenit and Terek at the top with a win if the leaders draw. CSKA remain without the services of strikers Seydou Doumbia and Tomas Necid.
Guus Hiddink’s Anzhi, fourth, welcome an FC Krasnodar side Sunday who have no wins in four games but a frugal defense that belies their 11th place, before Dan Petrescu's Dynamo try to move off the foot of the table when they play 13th-placed FC Rostov away.
Rostov could hand debuts to ex-England winger David Bentley and former Liverpool forward Florent Sinama-Pongolle in that match.
Monday sees games between ninth-placed Amkar and 15th-placed FC Volga, as well as 12th-placed Krylya Sovetov’s trip to 14th-placed minnows Mordovia Saransk.