Zenit in shape against Austria
Monday, September 30, 2013
FC Zenit go into the FK Austria Wien game in confident mood thanks to a fine run of home form while the visitors must shrug off some dispiriting defeats and a long injury list.
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Beaten 3-1 by Club Atlético de Madrid in their Group G opener, FC Zenit nonetheless welcome FK Austria Wien to St Petersburg in confident mood.
Besides having lost just one of their last 23 home games in European competition, the Russian side approach the fixture with six wins from their past seven matches and on a run of free-scoring form. Coach Luciano Spalletti said: "The attitude and spirit has been very good recently, everyone is showing great commitment." His Austria Wien counterpart Nenad Bjelica is aware of Zenit's fine recent showings and is equally troubled by the visitors' long injury list.
Luciano Spalletti, coach
I've seen how Austria play. In their first group game they lost [1-0] to Porto but deserved to win – they played better. They are a strong team with technical players who play at pace.
In our first half against Atlético there were no dangerous situations except for the corner [from which the hosts scored], so the tactic with three central defenders was justified. In the second half, when we regrouped and changed formation, we conceded two goals and our opponents caused us a lot of problems.
Atlético are one of the strongest teams and one who exploit space in their opponents' half. The [weekend] match against Real Madrid [a 1-0 Atlético victory] proved this.
We have a busy schedule and we will decide the composition [of the team] based on our training sessions. Sometimes it happens that players show a strong desire to play a particular match. The attitude and spirit of the team has been very good recently, everyone is showing great commitment. If we maintain this, we'll be able to turn around the situation that has developed with Russian teams at European level.
Saturday: Zenit 4-2 FC Spartak Moskva (Kerzhakov 20, Hulk 69, Shatov 81, Danny 84; Källström 29, Movsisyan 70)
Lodygin; Ansaldi, Smolnikov, Lombaerts, Hubočan; Witsel, Fayzulin (Zyryanov 75), Danny, Arshavin (Shatov 61); Hulk, Kerzhakov (Tymoshchuk 86)
• Zenit made it five straight Russian Premier League wins, having scored four in each of their last three outings. Hulk now has goals in Zenit's past four competitive fixtures.
• Aleksandr Kerzhakov became Russian football's leading goalscorer after taking his career tally to 208.
Roman Shirokov should return from a groin problem, though Spalletti said: "We will assess his condition. We don't have to hurry, we have a large number of players available."
Nenad Bjelica, coach
In a sense the game will be similar to the match with Porto – both teams have great players, but all will become clear only during the game itself.
We have a lot of injured players like [Alexander] Grünwald, [Marko] Stankovic, [Alexander] Gorgon and [Kaja] Rogulj. Zenit are strong opponents, who must be handled with good football from ourselves. This will also be an opportunity for our players to prove themselves.
Yes, I saw the match between Zenit and Spartak as well as their other games – they are a very good team. For example, Hulk is a world-class player who could play at Barcelona or any other club on the planet.
Saturday: FC Admira Wacker Mödling 1-0 Austria Wien (Schicker 82)
Lindner; Koch,Rogulj, Ortlechner, Suttner; Simkovic, Holland,Mader (Dilaver 56, Leovac 77); Spiridonovic, Hosiner, Jun (Kienast 56)
• Having been dumped out of the Austrian Cup on Tuesday by third-tier SC Karlsdorf, Austria's poor form continued as they created little against the Bundesliga's bottom side before conceding from a goalmouth scramble.
Long-term absentees Gorgon, Grünwald, Rogulj and Stankovic remain sidelined, while Emir Dilaver sustained a muscle injury at the weekend and has not travelled to Russia. Thomas Murg returns from a domestic ban and Daniel Royer is also available again.
• As Udinese Calcio coach, Spalletti's first experience of a major UEFA club competition a decade ago ended with defeat by Austrian opponents. Drawn against FC Salzburg in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup first round, Spalletti's Udinese looked in control after winning the first leg 1-0 in Salzburg. They then took the lead at home in the second leg on 15 October 2003, but subsequently shipped two second-half goals to lose 2-1 on the night and suffer elimination on away goals.