Bernd Schuster is backing Real Madrid CF to win away for the first time in eight attempts in the competition at FC Zenit St. Petersburg whose coach Dick Advocaat has called on his side to "surprise" the Spanish champions.
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Real Madrid CF coach Bernd Schuster is backing his side to win away in the UEFA Champions League for the first time in eight attempts when they take on FC Zenit St. Petersburg at the Petrovsky Stadium on Tuesday.
It is nearly two years since Madrid last won on their travels in the competition, a 4-1 success at FC Steaua Bucureşti in October 2006, but buoyed by a 2-1 victory at Real Betis Balompié on Saturday, Schuster arrived in Russia full of confidence. "Our last two away wins in the Liga showed our power and high fitness levels, but of course I'm expecting a tough game," said Schuster, whose team are just one point off top spot in Spain. "Zenit lost their first game and with the support of their fans they will be desperate to win."
'Quick and clever'
Zenit went down 1-0 at Juventus on opening night, when Madrid saw off debutants FC BATE Borisov 2-0. Zenit are also taking part in the competition for the first time, but with the Russian champions having lifted the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup in the last four months, Schuster considers them a totally different proposition. "Zenit are a very quick and tactically clever team," said the German, who is without the injured Guti, Fernando Gago and Wesley Sneijder and has left Christoph Metzelder and Míchel Salgado in Madrid.
Zenit could hardly have had a more daunting start to their first UEFA Champions League campaign. Having kicked off against Juventus, they now aim to collect their first points in Group H at the expense of the nine-times European champions. Coach Dick Advocaat is predicting a tight contest and warns his side they cannot afford to waste the few chances that may come their way. "We have to play our football and try to surprise them," he said.
Nonetheless, the Dutchman has had plenty of positives to draw from in recent days. Advocaat celebrated his 61st birthday on Saturday by watching Zenit win 3-0 at FC Lokomotiv Moskva to go sixth in the Premier-Liga, also meeting Vladimir Putin before the match. "Putin likes football but he cannot attend [many] games," Advocaat replied when asked to draw comparisons between the Russian prime minister and Silvio Berlusconi, the former AC Milan president and current Italian prime minister. Advocaat added that Putin has no affiliation to any particular club, but will surely be siding with Zenit when Madrid come calling.
The Zenit trainer is also boosted by the news defender Roman Shirokov has returned to training and could feature, while striker Fatih Tekke is available after a thigh complaint. Both are likely substitutes. However, defender Ivica Križanac is surprisingly omitted for the second successive match. "It is my decision," was all Advocaat would say on the matter. He was more expansive about the opposition, expecting Schuster to make changes from the side that beat Betis. "He uses a rotation system and I think he will make two changes, but it doesn't bother us who starts as they have lots of great players. Real are the favourites in our group. The other teams are battling for the remaining places."