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Zenit ready to test Marseille resolve

Published: Wednesday 12 March 2008, 1.52CET
FC Zenit St. Petersburg forward Andrei Arshavin hopes that his late first-leg strike at the Stade Vélodrome will help to spark a revival against Olympique de Marseille.
Zenit ready to test Marseille resolve
Andrei Arshavin hopes to silence Marseille ©Getty Images

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Published: Wednesday 12 March 2008, 1.52CET

Zenit ready to test Marseille resolve

FC Zenit St. Petersburg forward Andrei Arshavin hopes that his late first-leg strike at the Stade Vélodrome will help to spark a revival against Olympique de Marseille.

FC Zenit St. Petersburg striker Andrei Arshavin hopes his late goal at the Stade Vélodrome will allow the Russian champions to find a way back into their UEFA Cup Round of 16 tie against Olympique de Marseille. 

Late twist
The Ligue 1 side looked to have one foot in the quarter-finals when two goals from Djibril Cissé and a Mamadou Niang strike earned a 3-0 advantage in France last Thursday – but Arshavin's 82nd-minute effort has given Zenit the chance of staging a comeback at the Petrovsky Stadium. "It was important to get the away goal," Ashavin said. "I'm not sure how great our chances are, but losing 3-1 is certainly a lot better than 3-0."

Spartak scare
Marseille, who also hit the woodwork twice through Niang, will still be wary having been run close by another Russian club, FC Spartak Moskva, in the last round. Erik Gerets' team won the home leg of that tie 3-0 before succumbing 2-0 in Moscow – and a matching scoreline in St Petersburg would see the 2004 UEFA Cup finalists eliminated.

Key men
Zenit coach Dick Advocaat, who serves the second part of a three-match touchline ban, has to reshuffle his defence after Nicolas Lombaerts sustained an injury to join the suspended Kim Dong Jin on the sidelines. Advocaat will therefore count on another assured display from defensive midfield linchpin Anatoliy Tymoschuk. Along with Arshavin, Tymoschuk has emerged as Zenit's leading performer in recent times, although much of the pre-match talk has centred on a player with a lower profile, Pavel Pogrebnyak. 

Super Cup win 
The forward has been Zenit's saviour already in this UEFA Cup campaign, scoring five goals, including strikes in both Round of 32 games against Villarreal CF. Pogrebnyak confirmed that form by grabbing the winner in Sunday's 2-1 Russian Super Cup victory over FC Lokomotiv Moskva. "I really enjoy playing with Pavel and he's doing everyone at the club proud," said Arshavin. With Fatih Tekke and Alejandro Dominguez injured, Pogrebnyak and Arshavin seem certain to start together once more. 

Cana question 
Meanwhile, Marseille captain Lorik Cana is available after suspension, although Gerets appears undecided whether to position the Albanian international in central defence, where he has excelled of late, or in his usual midfield role. "I will think long and hard before choosing my team," said the coach. "It's going to be very important to have a solid midfield in Russia."

Strong finish needed
Gerets admits that Arshavin's goal has changed the complexion of the contest: "It's infuriating because we could have scored five, six, even seven. But at least the [2-0] victory over [AS] Saint-Etienne has given us a lift and made the journey to Russia more enjoyable." Sunday's win, secured by second-half strikes from Mathieu Valbuena and Taye Taiwo, was Marseille's ninth straight Vélodrome success – a sequence which has helped them to fourth place in Ligue 1. "The run we've been on is very pleasing," Gerets said. "Now we need to finish the season strongly."

Last updated: 08/04/08 16.32CET

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