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Spalletti draws on Zenit reserves for Benfica tie

FC Zenit St Petersburg coach Luciano Spalletti is sure his side can cope with a long injury list as they prepare for the round of 16 visit of an SL Benfica team on an 11-game winning run.

Luciano Spalletti wraps up warm in training on Tuesday
Luciano Spalletti wraps up warm in training on Tuesday ©Getty Images

FC Zenit St Petersburg may be going into Wednesday's home first leg of their UEFA Champions League last 16 tie with SL Benfica missing several key players but coach Luciano Spalletti is sure they can cope.

Coach Luciano Spalletti

If Zenit were able to end the year top of the Russian league and reach the Champions League last 16, we can afford absences. At the end of last year we did not play [Aleksandr] Kerzhakov but still got the results. The lack of an important player is likely to harm the team, but we have strong replacements – the proof of that was late last year.

The injury situation will not play a role − we want to get on the pitch and play football. Maybe tomorrow it will be cold, but it won't be for those who are on the field. In football you can play in any weather and a real winner, a strong player, should be able to adapt to any situation. When there are problems with the pitch, the advantage is with the more skilful team, because it is necessary to use more technique. Benfica are strong in this respect, perhaps more than us. We want to win this match by using our quality and character, and write a new page in the history of Zenit.

Weekend result
Winter break – next fixture: 3 March v PFC CSKA Moskva (away)

• In the extended, transitional 18-month Russian season, Zenit went into the winter break at the end of November with a six-point lead over CSKA. There are 12 rounds to go.

Team news
Danny is out for the season with torn knee ligaments. Domenico Criscito (food poisoning), Bukharov (hamstring) and Darko Lazović also miss out through injury. Goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev is hoping to recover from the calf problem which flared up again on Sunday in training and has kept him out of the winter friendlies. Roman Shirokov has been suffering from a similar injury.

Coach Jorge Jesus

Zenit have not played this year but I've watched their most recent matches in the Russian championship. We've also used technology to map their games and I'm sure we know enough about them. Both teams will face challenges, but we're ready for this and we will formulate our game plan and tactics. We know about Zenit's injuries but this will not play a part.

We've experience of playing in the Europa League and the Champions League and now have a very important match in the knockout stage. With all due respect to Zenit, we want to reach the next round. It is clear the tie will be decided over two matches but our aim is the same − to win.

Weekend result
Benfica 4-1 CD Nacional
(Garay 9, Cardozo 21, Rodrigo 39 61; Claudemir 29pen)

• Benfica have won 11 games in a row since their 22-match unbeaten start to 2011/12 ended at CS Marítimo on 2 December.

• Óscar Cardozo has scored in each of his last eight starts since the beginning of December, 11 goals in all.

Team news
Javi García is ruled out with an injury sustained on Friday in training.

Match fact
With draws at Trabzonspor AŞ and FC Twente in this season's qualifying rounds Benfica have suffered only one defeat in their last nine European away games. That came in Portugal, where fellow Liga side SC Braga won 1-0 to complete an away-goals triumph in last season's UEFA Europa League semi-finals after the Lisbon leg had ended 2-1 to the home side.

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