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Zenit and APOEL meet with identical ambitions

APOEL FC's Ivan Jovanović says he will be "the happiest coach in the world" if the Cypriot side advance, but in FC Zenit St Petersburg they face a team with genuine aspirations of their own.

Zenit and APOEL meet with identical ambitions
Zenit and APOEL meet with identical ambitions ©UEFA.com

FC Zenit St Petersburg coach Luciano Spalletti expects APOEL FC to defend resolutely as the Cypriot side seek the point that will take them to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 if FC Porto fail to beat FC Shakhtar Donetsk elsewhere in Group G. Ivan Jovanović did not disagree, though he says that as they pursue a result that will leave him "the happiest coach in the world", his charges must stay true to their counterattacking style.

Coach Luciano Spalletti

APOEL don't tend to have many chances on goal, but they don't miss often when they get the opportunity. We need to maintain a balance, here; it is a delicate, difficult situation, against a team always on the alert. I expect to see the same APOEL who [drew 1-1] at Porto and Shakhtar. From a tactical point of view, it will be radically different from our game in Cyprus [where Zenit lost 2-1].

We'll go out to win this game, but we must be very careful not to lose our balance, because the stakes are very high for us. We should not be nervous, because excited people never make the right decisions. My players should know that they have the skills to defeat APOEL, just as they beat the other teams in our group. The guys have to be calm and confident.

APOEL need only one point to reach the play-offs. They will defend tight, counterattack at speed and then regroup quickly inside their own half, so the most important thing for us is to be good from dead-ball situations. If we play as well as we have in recent games, I doubt that the game will end goalless.

Weekend result
Friday: Zenit 0-0 FC Anzhi Makhachkala
Malafeev; Anyukov, Lombaerts, Hubočan, Criscito; Bystrov (Lazović 58), Denisov, Zyryanov (Rosina 80), Shirokov, Fayzulin; Bukharov (Danny 70)

• Vladimir Bystrov made his first league start in over a year as Spalletti's side stretched their unbeaten run at home to 17 matches, winning 11 and drawing six since a 2-0 Russian Cup defeat by PFC CSKA Moskva on 20 April. Anzhi played the last nine minutes with ten men after Mbark Boussoufa was sent off.

Team news
Nicolas Lombaerts started on Friday on his return from a muscle problem and Danny came on as a substitute, his first outing since spraining knee ligaments on matchday four. Aleksandr Kerzhakov is still out with an ankle injury suffered on 2 October.

Coach Ivan Jovanović

We will not change our tactics; our approach will be the same as previous matches, even if all we need is a draw. Of course, conditions in St Petersburg are not what they are in Cyprus, but there is nothing I can do about that – in fact, the weather could be much worse. If we make the round of 16 I will not do anything special; I'll just be the happiest coach in the world.

We are so near yet so far from the knockout phase, as there are still two games to go against very good teams. We have to play better than ever but we are looking forward to it: the standings do not add pressure. Our group contains three very different teams. For us, Zenit are the most difficult team, Shakhtar the most talented and Porto are real champions, with vast European experience.

Zenit are top of the league in Russia, with European experience and a great coach – they are a team with a real future. Aleksandr Kerzhakov is important for Zenit; he has great speed, scoring instinct and technical skill. But Zenit have other players who can affect the outcome of the game.

Weekend result
Saturday: APOEL 2-0 Ermis Aradippou FC (Manduca 78, Belaid 82)
Pardo; Poursaitides, Ilia, Paulo Jorge, Oliveira; Nuno Morais, Manduca (Adorno 84), Marcinho, Charalambides (Hélio Pinto 60); Tričkovski, Solari (Belaid 71)

• Gustavo Manduca's strike was APOEL's first in 277 minutes of First Division action. He also provided the cross for Tijani Belaid to head in his maiden goal for the club.

Team news
Aílton faces a late fitness test while Nektarios Alexandrou is doubtful after returning from international duty with a calf knock. Dionisios Chiotis has not played since being taken off with bruised ribs at FC Porto on matchday three while William Boaventura has not featured since spraining his ankle on 23 October.

Match fact
Like APOEL, Zenit are competing in the UEFA Champions League group stage for the second time and they too would qualify for the knockout phase for the first time with victory at the Petrovski Stadion if Porto fail to beat Shakhtar.

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