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Featuring in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage for only the second time in their history, FC Zenit can nonetheless draw on a wealth of European experience.
That is something coach Luciano Spalletti is eager to stress ahead of his side's last-16 encounter with last year's runners-up Borussia Dortmund later this month. "We have played in the Champions League for many years now, and we've fought well this season," the 54-year-old explained. "The team live for this competition and their careers are driven by it."
The Sine-Belo-Golubye qualified from Group G with a record-low six points after a harrowing 4-1 defeat at FK Austria Wien on matchday six, but Spalletti is focused on the bigger picture. "We were unfortunate not to beat Porto at home and played against Austria with ten men for more than an hour. We deserved to collect more points, but overall we can be happy with our performance."
Spalletti speaks from experience, having coached the likes of Udinese Calcio and AS Roma before taking the Zenit reins in 2009. Still, he is not immune to matchday nerves. "I can't relax before a match. The result is so important because there are thousands of fans whose mood will be determined by what happens on the pitch. I always feel responsible for the club's fortunes," he told UEFA.com.
To hear more from Spalletti, click on the video player.
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