BSC Young Boys pair Scott Sutter and Senad Lulić are quietly confident of progressing to the UEFA Europa League last 16 when they visit FC Zenit St Petersburg for their round of 32 second leg.
"Zenit are a great team and we saw last week the way they can play, and they will be at home this time," Sutter told UEFA.com. "But if we start well and maybe get an early goal – maybe from a corner or a set piece – then the whole tie will turn in our favour.
We've shown before that we can play well against good teams and on our day we can beat anyone."
Nicolas Lombaerts headed Zenit in front in Berne last week, but winger Lulić replied within 60 seconds of the restart. Then, following Vladimir Bystrov's dismissal, Young Boys substitute Emmanuel Mayuka scored deep into added time to end a six-game European winning streak for the Russian champions and earn the hosts a precious 2-1 advantage. "Their defeat to us was the first time they lost in the competition this season," right-back Sutter added.
Temperatures of -12C and below may hamper Young Boys in Russia, yet Sutter – English born but capped by Switzerland – seems calm. "I've never played in temperatures that cold; I don't think any of our players have, but we're looking forward to it. It's the sort of game everyone looks forward to, that we train all year for. I think we can win the tie, I'm confident."
While the likes of VfB Stuttgart and Tottenham Hotspur FC have also been beaten in Berne this term, Vladimir Petković's men can take courage from their 1-0 victory at Fenerbahçe SK in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round after a 2-2 home draw in the first leg.
That result suggests to the left-sided Lulić that a last-16 encounter with the winners of the FC Rubin Kazan-FC Twente tie is a realistic ambition. "
If we can win in Istanbul, we can win in St Petersburg," said the Bosnian international. "It will be very difficult in Russia, but we have a good chance and I'm hopeful we can reach the next round."
Zenit's absentee list – Aleksandr Kerzhakov, Lombaerts, Tomáš Hubočan, Aleksandr Bukharov and the suspended Bystrov – will only give the Swiss outfit more encouragement against opponents still awaiting the start of their domestic season. Home coach Luciano Spalletti nonetheless said: "We still have a good enough squad to qualify.
"Of course weather and pitch conditions make matters complicated, but skill and experience are the most important things," added the former AS Roma boss. "I have players who have those characteristics – winners' traits. The most important thing is to believe in what you are capable of and put that into practice."
That calm outlook was shared by Zenit goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev. "We are finally home after some long training camps and have been relaxing with our families and friends, so we are in a good mood," he said. "We have put the loss in Berne behind us. We are ready. We just need to score as many as possible and everything will be fine."
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