MOSCOW, November 2 (R-Sport) – The dearth of quality football pitches in the Russian capital came to light again Saturday as Lokomotiv Moscow turned down a request from desperate city rival CSKA to use its ground for a forthcoming clash against Spartak.
The issue, which is now verging on the embarrassing for Russian football bosses, is thought to be a consequence of the switch from a summer to a winter season in order to synchronize calendars with the rest of Europe, combined with incessant September rain.
With CSKA's Arena Khimki home reduced to a muddy field covered in sand, the club is loath to churn it up any more than necessary ahead of its Champions League clash against title-holders Bayern Munich on November 28.
As the Spartak game comes a week prior to that showdown, CSKA had appealed to Lokomotiv to lend its Cherkizovo arena for the fixture.
But R-Sport learned on Saturday that Lokomotiv, which also has a natural grass surface, has refused the request in order to protect its own pitch, which will either force CSKA to revert to the beleaguered Arena Khimki or seek a ground further afield, such as the Moscow suburb of Ramenskoye, where Dagestani side Anzhi Makhachkala plays its Europa League games.
CSKA has already played three games at the dilapidated Eduard Streltsov stadium in Moscow and one – a 3-2 Champions League win over Viktoria Plzen – in St. Petersburg.
Adding to CSKA's misery, the Union of European Football Associations has ordered a partial stadium closure for CSKA's game against Bayern as punishment for the "racist behavior" of its fans in last week's 2-1 defeat by Manchester City.
CSKA is fourth in the Russian Premier League, trailing leader Zenit St. Petersburg by 11 points. The Moscow team plays FC Volga later Saturday in Nizhny Novgorod.
Russian football officials will be keen to put the surfaces situation right ahead of the 2018 World Cup, which is due to be held in cities around Russia.