The last thing FC Zenit wanted going into their UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg with Borussia Dortmund was a minor injury crisis, but they have the perfect man in reserve.
Roman Shirokov, Cristian Ansaldi and Danny are all ruled out of Tuesday's home encounter with last season's runners-up. However, one midfielder who did not appear in the group stage and is now champing at the bit is Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, signed in the summer from the side that beat Dortmund in last May's Wembley final, FC Bayern München.
Tymoshchuk, who lifted the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup with Zenit in 2008 before moving to Germany the next year, played against Dortmund four times last season – and may use his first-hand knowledge to aid Luciano Spalletti. "If the coach needs my help in preparing for the match, I am willing to assist in any way I can," said the 34-year-old former FC Shakhtar Donetsk stalwart.
"I think everyone understands the overall picture. There are scouts who have specially watched Borussia's games. In the last few days we have thoroughly studied our opponents."
Dortmund were in domestic action on Saturday, losing 3-0 at lowly Hamburger SV to fall 20 points behind FC Bayern München, not a result that gives Tymoshchuk much comfort. "That happens when a team is preparing for the Champions League," he said.
"In the Bundesliga everything is clear, Bayern can be called champions. Dortmund are also focused on the Champions League, so I would not be surprised if they specifically left something to spare before meeting us."
Zenit have not played a competitive match since their concluding Group G game, a 4-1 loss at FK Austria Wien, while Tymoshchuk himself last took the field on 1 December in a Russian Premier-Liga fixture at FC Terek Grozny. It was only his fifth full 90 minutes of the campaign. Still, he has started several of Zenit's winter friendlies, and there has been no let-up in their training camps in places including Qatar, Israel, Turkey and Austria.
"We worked so hard in training that we did not have time to shave," Tymoshchuk said. "Two training sessions a day. We are very well prepared, the sessions were well organised and the team worked on high-performance tasks set by the coaching staff. So we are ready for tomorrow's match."
There was, however, time to wind down with the event to which all Russia has been glued over the past fortnight. "Of course I have watched the Winter Olympics, for us it was relaxation," the Ukrainian international said. "It is always interesting to watch competition involving the best athletes in the world."
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