Rising Russians give Sheffield Wednesday top-flight test

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Sheffield Wednesday’s opponents this evening are in a very different part of their season to the Owls.

Russian Premier League team FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod are probably the last name a Wednesday fan would have picked to be the first test for Gary Megson’s team during preparations for the new campaign.

But, with the Russian League in a mid-season break, the club from the north-west of the country, on the road from St Petersburg to Moscow, will provide a competitive match for a Wednesday squad that has been through almost two weeks of pre-season training.

Only a handful of Owls fans will be able to see a new-look Wednesday line-up, with the match taking place at the Sportplatz Irdning close to the club’s training camp in the Austrian mountains.

Volga have had a meteoric rise is recent seasons. In 2008 they were promoted from their local zone of the Russian Second Division and then made the top flight for the 2011 season after just two years in Division One.

The Premier League has several famous names from European competitions including Spartak Moscow, CSKA Moscow, Zenit St Petersburg and Rubin Kazan. Volga are halfway through their league season having played 15 matches.

Currently 12th in the table, they resume competitive action on July 21 with a home match against CSKA Moscow. The majority of the Volga squad are Russian-born but they do feature several Georgians, a Brazilian and a couple of Romanians among others.

One player perhaps known to ardent watchers of European football is Spanish midfielder Marc Crosas.

The 23-year-old came through the ranks at Barcelona and signed a five-year contract in 2006. He made his first-team debut in a Copa del Rey tie against CF Badalona, coming on as a substitute for Andrés Iniesta.

A loan to French club Lyon was followed by a switch to Celtic before a £300,000 transfer to Volga in February.