Though a draw at FC Porto would take take FC Zenit St Petersburg through, Tomáš Hubočan insists they will be "playing to win" while home defender Maicon struck a confident note.
Article top media content
FC Zenit St Petersburg only may need to avoid defeat at FC Porto to pip their hosts to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 but defender Tomáš Hubočan has insisted that the visitors will "be playing to win".
The Russian Premier League leaders are also just a point behind APOEL FC in Group G, which means victory at the Estádio do Dragão might see them through as section winners. "We know the situation in the group but it's not our style to hold out for a goalless draw," said Hubočan. "We want to play attractive, attacking football on Tuesday, which fans in Russia are used to seeing. And we need the result, so we'll be playing to win."
Zenit got the better of Porto on matchday two with a 3-1 comeback win at the Stadion Petrovskiy but Hubočan was impressed by the visitors, who had Jorge Fucile dismissed on the stroke of half-time in that match. "Although they lost they were good opponents – a team of high quality who like to attack," said Slovakian international Hubočan. "They are a strong unit with excellent individuals who we need to be very wary of.
"Porto will definitely burst forward in numbers, so the main thing for us is not to concede early on," added the 26-year-old, who has played all five group matches to date. "We'll try to exploit our chances later on when spaces appear that present counterattacking opportunities. Everyone at Zenit recognises the importance of this game. It's not only our last match of the year, it's also the most crucial."
The Russian champions have been on the go since their season started in February, but Hubočan is shutting out all thoughts of a long-awaited break having been training in the Algarve since their most recent fixture on 27 November. "Since we played FC Lokomotiv Moskva in the league [winning 2-1] we have had enough time to recover. We have had perfect working conditions in Lagos. It's like summer here, so I think we'll be on top form."
Joint Portuguese Liga leaders, Porto, however, are in rude health themselves, having also had the weekend off to prepare for this must-win fixture. "We will show our dynamism and commitment," said Maicon. "When we get on that pitch we'll only be thinking about one thing: getting the win."
The converted right-back will have his hands full trying to curb the threat posed by Zenit's Venezuelan-born Portuguese winger Danny, whom he highlighted as a chief threat, but the Brazilian remained confident of success. "Everyone knows my best position is central defender, but I'm always keen to learn from the coach and technical team, and playing on the right side suits me too," the 23-year-old said.
"I am trying to get better with every match and with my determination things will improve. We'll do our best for the fans. Zenit are a great side but we expect Porto to be stronger and we'll be going all out for the win."