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Malafeev refusing to rule out Zenit

Published: Wednesday 16 March 2011, 12.00CET
Keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev still has belief as FC Zenit St Petersburg go into their round of 16 decider against FC Twente 3-0 down, telling UEFA.com: "We have nothing to lose."
by Oleg Sokol
from St Petersburg
Malafeev refusing to rule out Zenit
Nothing will shake Vyacheslav Malafeev's belief in Zenit's prospects ©Getty Images

Tournament statistics

ZenitTwente

Goals scored24
 
9
Attempts on target68
 
22
Attempts off target46
 
31
Corners58
 
19
Offsides38
 
16
Fouls committed131
 
88
Yellow cards21
 
10
Red cards1
 
1

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Published: Wednesday 16 March 2011, 12.00CET

Malafeev refusing to rule out Zenit

Keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev still has belief as FC Zenit St Petersburg go into their round of 16 decider against FC Twente 3-0 down, telling UEFA.com: "We have nothing to lose."

Russian champions FC Zenit St Petersburg know they must score at least three goals at home to FC Twente if they are even to take their UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie into added time – but goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev refuses to rule them out.

I don't know whether it is better for a coach to have a full side to choose from or a situation like this, with just 13 to 15 players
Vyacheslav Malafeev

The 32-year-old, who helped Zenit win the 2007/08 UEFA Cup, recognises that the odds are stacked overwhelmingly against his side, yet finds plenty of reasons to believe that – despite outward appearances – all may not be lost. "We have nothing to lose," the Russian international told UEFA.com, before reeling off a list of encouraging factors for Luciano Spalletti's men.

"First, we are playing at home," he said. "Second, our fans will help us. Third, after a big win in Enschede, our opponents will be a bit relaxed. Fourth, there have been examples when a team has won a tie despite being 3-0 down from the first leg. Fifth, in the first match, Zenit were the better side for me – we just didn't take any of our many chances while they scored almost all of theirs."

Such dogged belief may serve Zenit well, but the fact they have shipped at least one goal in each of their three UEFA Europa League games in 2011 – a statistic made worse by last week's 3-0 loss to the Dutch titleholders – hardly inspires optimism. Concede again on Thursday and they will need five to win the tie. Malafeev countered: "We have not conceded in our two domestic games this season. We beat [PFC] CSKA Moskva in the Super Cup and won at [FC] Terek Grozny in our first Premier League game."

Zenit will also be without injured defenders Tomáš Hubočan (back) and Nicolas Lombaerts (knee), with Fernando Meira's recent displays at the back a cause for concern. Malafeev sounds unconcerned, though. "The whole team has to defend. The most important thing is how the defenders work with the other players. Anyway, even if [Twente] score, I do not think our chances to qualify will be gone."

In addition to absent defenders, Zenit will miss Sergei Semak (metatarsal) and Vladimir Bystrov (knee), while Spalletti feels neither Aleksandr Kerzhakov nor fellow forward Aleksandr Bukharov can play a full 90 minutes. Malafeev, however, is sticking to his guns. "I don't know whether it is better for a coach to have a full side to choose from or a situation like this, with just 13 to 15 players," he said. "I am sure Spalletti will make the right decisions."

Since conducting the interview with Vyacheslav Malafeev, UEFA.com has learnt of the tragic death of the player's wife and wishes to send its condolences to Malafeev and his family. Given his bereavement, the goalkeeper will play no part in the Zenit-Twente game, his club have said.

Last updated: 17/03/11 13.24CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuropaleague/season=2011/matches/round=2000130/match=2003809/prematch/preview/index.html#malafeevs+mission+improbable

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