Zenit set sights on second place
Friday, November 7, 2008
Juventus are already assured of a place in the knockout rounds so their trip to Russia is all about whether FC Zenit St. Petersburg can build on their maiden competition victory on Matchday 4 and seize second place in Group H.
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Juventus assured themselves of a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds with home and away victories against Real Madrid CF so the focus for their Matchday 5 game in Russia is trained firmly on FC Zenit St. Petersburg, who will be hoping they can overtake the Spanish champions to move into second place in Group H.
• To do that the Russian hosts must beat Juventus and hope Madrid lose at FC BATE Borisov. A maiden UEFA Champions League victory against BATE on Matchday 4 will put Zenit in good heart and they will be ready to take advantage should Juventus be tempted to ease up now they are assured of going beyond the group stage.
• A superb goal in each half from captain Alessandro Del Piero gave the Turin club a notable victory at the Santiago Bernabéu on Matchday 4 and completed a memorable double for Claudio Ranieri's team. Del Piero took advantage of hesitant Madrid defending to curl in the opener early in the first half and then effectively ended the home challenge with a trademark free-kick midway through the second period.
• On the same evening Pavel Pogrebnyak ended his goal drought with a finely taken first-half strike to silence the Dinamo Stadium and set up Zenit's 2-0 victory away to the newly-crowned Belarussian champions BATE. Sébastien Puygrenier was sent off midway through the second half but Dick Advocaat's team stayed in charge and Danny scored the second goal four minutes into stoppage time.
• Zenit gave a good account of themselves in the Turin meeting between the teams on Matchday 1 and only looked under threat from set-pieces. That ultimately led to their defeat, Del Piero scoring from a direct free-kick with 14 minutes remaining. After that, at home to Madrid, the UEFA Cup holders were put on the back foot by an Tomáš Hubočan own goal. Danny equalised before the nine-time European champions got their noses in front again as Ruud van Nistelrooy took advantage of more defensive uncertainty and that was enough to secure the points for the visitors.
• In Zenit's first game with BATE, a home defeat looked on the cards after substitute Pavel Nekhaychik had scored on 53 minutes. Zenit had earlier struck the woodwork twice and passed up a host of other opportunities, but finally drew level when Fatih Tekke evaded the offside trap to fire past Sergei Veremko.
• Meanwhile the Bianconeri followed up their defeat of Zenit on 17 September by drawing 2-2 away to BATE, although even a point looked beyond them after 23 minutes when they trailed 2-0 to goals by Sergei Kryvets and Igor Stasevich. Then Vincenzo Iaquinta put away a header followed by a low shot, both before half-time, to earn the visitors a draw.
• Zenit's only previous contest with an Italian team came in the 1999/00 UEFA Cup first round when they lost 3-0 at home to Bologna FC in the first leg. Some respectability was restored as the Russian side drew 2-2 in Italy.
• Juventus have met Russian opponents on two previous occasions in European competition and have a 100 per cent record in the away matches. In the first round of the 1993/94 UEFA Cup they faced FC Lokomotiv Moskva and had things mostly their own way, winning 3-0 at home and 1-0 away. Their 1999 UEFA Intertoto Cup semi-final with FC Rostov proved even more comfortable, the Italian side recording a 4-0 away victory before a 5-1 success at home.