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'Uncomfortable' Zenit braced for Milan

"Crucial for morale" in the eyes of Luciano Spalletti, and "an important contest" according to Massimiliano Allegri, AC Milan's trip to FC Zenit St Petersburg promises a tight affair.

Coach Luciano Spalletti is plotting a way forward for Zenit after a poor run of form
Coach Luciano Spalletti is plotting a way forward for Zenit after a poor run of form ©Getty Images

FC Zenit St Petersburg and AC Milan go into Wednesday's matchday two encounter in need of momentum. Neither side won their opening Group C game, and both are notably off the pace in their domestic leagues. For Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti, however, an ability to "react well to bad times" bodes well, while Massimiliano Allegri is confident his team are heading in the right direction.

Coach Luciano Spalletti
After the [3-0] defeat by Málaga we are in a very uncomfortable position. We need to win to restore the confidence that will bring out our stronger qualities. Milan are enduring the same loss of form that we are, and for both teams this meeting is critical for morale and even fundamental for the future of both. Zenit are better than a side with two victories in eight matches. My players have real character, though.

I think Hulk can add to his game, finding different ways of attacking, as a second striker or from the flanks, with the ball played into his feet or fed in front of him. That said, I am very happy with him as he is now. Axel Witsel has every chance of playing but we must be careful with these new signings, to avoid putting too much pressure on them.

Weekend result
Saturday: Zenit 1-1 FC Lokomotiv Moskva (Criscito 14; N'Doye 25)
Malafeev; Anyukov, Lombaerts, Alves, Criscito; Zyryanov, Fayzulin, Shirokov (Kanunnikov 78), Bystrov (Yanbaev 59); Hulk, Bukharov (Kerzhakov 46).

• Domenico Criscito scored on his first appearance in a month following a calf injury. Zenit, though, are three games without a win at home.

Team news
Danny (cruciate knee ligaments) and Sergei Semak (hamstring) are both out injured, while Igor Denisov is not involved either. Nicolas Lombaerts is doubtful because of a broken nose, but Criscito could play with a face mask after suffering a fractured cheekbone at the weekend.

Coach Massimiliano Allegri
This will be an important contest because it is between the two group favourites, neither of whom played to their potential in the first round of games. I have watched many of Zenit's matches and I don't think you can say they are a team in crisis.

Spalletti is an excellent and clever coach. His task is to ensure that all the players in this game have forgotten about any other problems. Russian football is continuing to evolve and we are seeing that good players from all over the world are going to Russia.

Maybe my players do not have the same levels of understanding as Zenit's, but we are in good shape. Technically we are very strong and we have shown improvement in recent matches. On Wednesday we are ready to play even better.

Weekend result
Saturday: Parma FC 1-1 Milan (Galloppa 66; El Shaarawy 50)
Abbiati; Abate, Yepes, Zapata, De Sciglio; De Jong, Ambrosini (Montolivo 64); Nocerino, Boateng (Robinho 70), Bojan (Pazzini 81); El Shaarawy.

• Stephan El Shaarawy registered his fourth goal in three Serie A games. The Italian Under-21 international and Giampaolo Pazzini are the only players to have scored for Milan this season.

Team news
Pato (thigh) and Francesco Acerbi (knee) have not made the trip to Russia, but Mathieu Flamini should be available having missed the draw against Parma with inflammation to the knee.

Match fact
Milan did not win away in the 2011/12 competition, recording three draws and two defeats. Their last away victory in the UEFA Champions League was a 2-0 success at AJ Auxerre in November 2010.

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