Part of the FC Rubin Kazan team which shocked FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League two years ago, Sergei Semak is primed for a return to the group stage after missing out last season soon after joining FC Zenit St Petersburg.
The experienced midfielder left Rubin midway through the 2010 Russian Premier-Liga campaign to join Luciano Spalletti's squad, who were in the midst of UEFA Champions League qualifying. Though FC Unirea Urziceni were accounted for, Zenit's hopes of a second group stage appearance were ended in the play-offs by AJ Auxerre, the French club overturning a narrow away defeat with a 2-0 win in Burgundy.
However, with Zenit qualifying automatically for the 2011/12 group stage following their title triumph last term, the 35-year-old is now turning his thoughts to ensuring that does not represent the ceiling of the club's European campaign. "Zenit are already an established team, and Russian champions," Semak told UEFA.com. "The team won the UEFA Cup [in 2008] and, of course, is looking forward to having some good games. The primary and final objective is to win the group, which doesn't always work out for our teams."
Spalletti's men have more pressing matters to attend to before then, though; namely overhauling Semak's former club, PFC CSKA Moskva, at the top of the table. "This year it has been much more difficult because everybody knows our strong and weak points now, and everyone redoubles their efforts against the champions," said Semak, a Russian title winner for the last three seasons. "At the same time, the team now is fighting for top spot and the championship still has a long way to go − I hope we will give CSKA some competition."
To hear more from Semak about his long career and all things Zenit, watch the full interview above.
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