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Spalletti wants to see Zenit's belated best

Published: Monday 3 December 2012, 19.20CET
FC Zenit St Petersburg have underperformed in Group C according to coach Luciano Spalletti but he is asking them to "give their best" at AC Milan to secure third place.
by Alessandro Massimo
from Milan
Spalletti wants to see Zenit's belated best
Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti is back in Italy to face Milan ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Monday 3 December 2012, 19.20CET

Spalletti wants to see Zenit's belated best

FC Zenit St Petersburg have underperformed in Group C according to coach Luciano Spalletti but he is asking them to "give their best" at AC Milan to secure third place.

FC Zenit St Petersburg coach Luciano Spalletti admits his team have underperformed in this season's UEFA Champions League but hopes they rise to the occasion now as they visit AC Milan in their final Group C fixture. "We will have to give it our best," said Spalletti, whose Zenit need as good a result at San Siro as RSC Anderlecht manage at Málaga CF to go into the UEFA Europa League round of 32. Milan have no such worries although their coach Massimilano Allegri wants to keep their winning momentum going.

Milan are through as runners-up.

Zenit lie third on goal difference as they are level on the head-to-head ruling with Anderlecht, with whom they are competing for a UEFA Europa League berth. If the two matches in the group end with draws, Zenit will qualify for the UEFA Europa League due to their superior goal difference from all group matches played (see Article 7.06 of the Regulations).

Milan
Massimiliano Allegri, coach
It will be a different game in terms of importance. We must to win to extend and confirm what did in Catania last week. Winning helps you to be more calm and relaxed. When you don't get a positive result you always think about the game just gone for two or three days. We need to avoid that and get three points.

I won't change the system of play, but some players need to recover from little injuries. Tomorrow [Riccardo] Montolivo will rest as well as [Philippe] Mexès, who is also suspended. I have to evaluate the physical condition of [Kévin] Constant. [Luca] Antonini is still out and probably [Djamel] Mesbah will start the game.

[Alexandre] Pato will be out. I think [Stephan] El Shaarawy will start the game from the bench. I appreciate [Giampaolo] Pazzini. He played well against Juventus but against Catania had a back problem. I think he's important for us and he can play tomorrow.

Weekend result
Friday: Calcio Catania 1-3 Milan (Legrottaglie 11; El Shaarawy 53, 90+2, Boateng 56)
Amelia; De Sciglio, Mexès, Acerbi, Constant; Montolivo (Emanuelson 66), De Jong, Nocerino; Boateng, Robinho (Ambrosini 90+3), El Shaarawy.

• El Shaarawy struck twice, taking his tally to 18 goals in 21 games for club and country this season, either side of Kevin-Prince Boateng's first goal this term as Milan claimed a third successive win. Catania's Pablo Barrientos was sent off early in the second half and Boateng also saw red late on.

Team news
Mexès is suspended and Ignazio Abate, Pato and Daniele Bonera are out with thigh injuries on top of those players who will be rested that Allegri spoke about.

Zenit
Luciano Spalletti, coach
This year we have had some problems playing away from home and I think we've not reached our expectations. Compared to the last UEFA Champions League campaign, our performances have been worse. We have to face some crucial games which could alter our future goals and I want to face these games alongside my team, as ever.

[Roman] Shirokov is a player with great qualities, but this kind of player can have less positive moments and the coach may have different ideas on a certain occasion. With a team like Zenit this can happen.

Europa League qualification is down to us because if we win we get through. We will have to give our best. It will be difficult but we will try to win, as will Milan. After a difficult moment, Allegri has proved to be a capable coach and AC Milan a top-class team.

Weekend result
Friday: FC Spartak Moskva 2-4 Zenit (Dzyuba 26, Emenike 81; Hulk 21, Witsel 41 70, Shirokov 78)
Malafeev; Lombaerts, Alves, Yanbaev, Hubočan; Witsel, Denisov, Shirokov (Zyryanov 83), Fayzulin (Bystrov 32), Danny; Hulk (Kerzhakov 65).

• Axel Witsel's first two goals for Zenit helped them to victory against a Spartak side who ended the game with nine men after Nicolas Pareja (69) and Juan Insaurralde (90+3) were dismissed. Shirokov's goal was his eighth for club and country this season – all have come after half-time.

Team news
Viktor Fayzulin went off with a knock after 32 minutes on Friday.

Match fact
• Zenit coach Spalletti and his Milan counterpart Allegri both played, at different times, for amateur side UC Cuoiopelli. Both from Tuscany, they were born 80km apart, in Certaldo and Livorno respectively.

Last updated: 04/12/12 10.30CET

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