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Czech Republic defender Radek Šírl expects no let-up from Juventus as the Turin side visit FC Zenit St. Petersburg with a last-16 place already secured, telling uefa.com their fringe players will have "double the motivation" to succeed.
The Serie A club arrived in St Petersburg with seven players unavailable through injury. But if ten points from their first four games have guaranteed Juventus a top-two finish in Group H, Šírl remains wary of the opposition they will provide on Matchday 5. "Those first-choice players will be replaced by fringe players who will have double the motivation to show the coach they should be in the first XI," he warned.
While Zenit must win to have a definite chance of playing for qualification away to Real Madrid CF on Matchday 6, left-back Šírl notes that the pressure is off the visitors. "If Juventus needed a victory they would be more nervous, but they are already through and that means they are relaxed and can play their best football," he said. "Since we are playing to win, it makes it harder for us."
The 27-year-old is adamant that Saturday's 1-0 defeat at title rivals FC Internazionale Milano will not dampen Juve's ardour either. "Juventus are in great shape," Šírl stressed. "The loss to Internazionale did not change my mind about that. They were beaten by a single goal by a very strong team, not by four or five. And in the group stage they have defeated Real Madrid home and away."
The Russian Premier-Liga season ended on Saturday, with Zenit triumphing 3-1 at FC Spartak Moskva to snatch fifth place and a qualifying berth for the inaugural UEFA Europa League next term. "We were lucky," said Širl. "Pre-season we were thinking about the championship or a top-three finish at worst so we could get into the Champions League, but we dropped a lot of points recently and would have finished eighth if we had lost in Moscow."
The former CU Bohemians Praha player, who was suspended for the weekend's command performance, continued: "The season was long and hard, demanding a lot of physical and mental effort. Some people say that now we can concentrate on the Champions League, but I wouldn't say our domestic results have affected our European displays particularly. I have prepared well for every match and have kept focused."
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