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Spalletti tells Zenit it's make-or-break time

Luciano Spalletti demands that FC Zenit St Petersburg do not waste "the fruits of a whole year's labour" when they face a Málaga CF side already qualified but not resting on any laurels.

Luciano Spalletti knows that Zenit are perilously close to the point of no return in Group C
Luciano Spalletti knows that Zenit are perilously close to the point of no return in Group C ©Getty Images

FC Zenit St Petersburg and Málaga CF head into matchday five with vastly differing mission statements: while the hosts will likely need to win to stay alive in Group C, their Spanish visitors – already qualified – know just a point will wrap up top spot. Luciano Spalletti has, accordingly, made clear the "gravity of this game" to his players; Manuel Pellegrini, by contrast, called on his side not to drop their levels after a start which has taken even him by surprise.

Luciano Spalletti, coach
We have no option but to win so we have to ignore everything else; nothing should dampen our spirit. We are focusing all our thoughts and efforts on getting the result we need. If any one of them fails to understand the gravity of this game then they must have problems.

I have told them time and again that these Champions League matches are the fruits of a whole year's labours; we should savour them. I am absolutely convinced that my players are ready for this. The press and people around speak about other things on non-matchdays, but within the team we have discussed only the meeting with Málaga. 

Málaga have reached the knockout stages. Even if they have dropped a few points in the Liga, there is no crisis. The fact they haven't brought some of their better players does not mean a thing. Players who have not been used so much in the Champions League can bring fresh problems as they will have strong motivation and desire. Someone like Roque Santa Cruz, a strong, skilful player.

Weekend result
Saturday: FC Dinamo Moskva A-A Zenit
Malafeev; Yanbaev, Hubočan, Alves, Anyukov; Denisov, Shirokov, Zyryanov, Danny, Semak; Kerzhakov.

• The match was abandoned six minutes before half-time because of crowd trouble. Dinamo were leading 1-0 at the time through Vladimir Granat's goal.

Team news
Domenico Criscito is out with a knee injury and Vladimir Bystrov faces a late fitness test due to a thigh problem. Nicolas Lombaerts (hamstring) is available, while Hulk (thigh) and Viktor Fayzulin (knee) are also expected to shake off knocks.

Manuel Pellegrini, coach
We didn't expect to come into this encounter with ten points. We will play at full capacity to try and guarantee first place in the group, to show the whole world our ability. I have left [Javier] Saviola and Joaquín in Spain, but our strongest players will be on the field. I have taken Isco to Saint Petersburg and that emphasises the importance of the game.

This match will be different from our clubs' meeting on matchday one. Our first game in the Champions League was against a strong team coached by the excellent Spalletti. We were worried but everything panned out well. Now we have a little experience from recent matches and we will therefore play in a different way.

Results in the Liga won't bother us as the Champions League is a totally different competition. We played badly in our last two matches because of injuries and fatigue, but the team are still well placed in the league.

Weekend result
Saturday: CA Osasuna 0-0 Málaga
Willy; Gámez, Demichelis, Weligton, Eliseu; Toulalan, Camacho, Joaquín, Isco (Duda 82), Portillo; Saviola (Santa Cruz 71).

• Málaga are four matches without a win in the Liga, their worst run since December and January.

Team news
Nacho Monreal (back) and Sergio Sánchez (hamstring) have not made the trip, nor has long-term absentee Júlio Baptista (Achilles) as he returns to fitness, while Carlos Kameni was a late withdrawal because of a virus. Manuel Iturra is suspended, Joaquín and Saviola are rested.

Match fact
• Málaga have suffered only one defeat in 11 away games in UEFA competition.

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