SV Pasching hope to return to winning ways when they take on FC Zenit St. Petersburg.
By Raimund Fabi & Pavel Gognidze
SV Pasching hope the old adage of passing failure on the way to success will apply to them when they play FC Zenit St. Petersburg in the UEFA Cup second qualifying round at the Waldstadion tonight.
The Austrian side have struggled for form in recent months, going an astonishing 15 games without victory, with their most recent success being a win against VfB Admira Wacker Mödling in April.
As if results were not cause enough for concern for coach Georg Zellhofer, Pasching have also slipped to seventh position in the new Bundesliga season, and have lost six key players since meeting Zenit at this same second qualifying round stage of last year's UEFA Cup. On that occasion the Russians overcame a spirited Pasching on away goals in a tight contest.
Nonetheless, Zellhofer is confident it is a matter of time before his team return to winning ways - believing a revenge mission against Zenit will provide the perfect wake-up call. "Of course we want revenge," he said. "St. Petersburg are big favourites – there is no doubt about that. But I'm sure we've got a chance. If we can control their key players then there is no reason why we can't pull off a big surprise."
Zellhofer's sides are well known throughout Austria for their impressive work ethic and they will look to play a similar game against Zenit this evening. "If we can produce the kind of pressure game we used last time, St. Petersburg could be vulnerable," said Zellhofer. "They don't like to be pressed off the ball," he added.
Zenit coach Vlastimil Petrzela agreed with his opposite number, admitting his side must give Pasching more respect after only sneaking past them last time out. "The draw last year was a shock for me," he said. "Pasching were without doubt one of the toughest opponents we played last year. Yes, they have changed their team, but their style is still the same.
"They have aggressive players and sometimes that is enough to unsettle my team," he continued. "The problem is, no Russian side plays like Pasching so this could be a big disadvantage to us."
However, in stark contrast to Pasching's depleted squad, Zenit arrive in Austria bolstered by a number of recent acquisitions, most of them from fellow UEFA Cup contenders FC Krylya Sovetov Samara. Perhaps the key addition is Russian international defender Aleksandr Anyukov, considered one of the country's brightest prospects. If Pasching are to upset the odds, their defence must also keep Lithuanian international forward Robertas Poškus and the energetic Aleksandr Kerzhakov in check.
"We will be looking to win this game but we realise that our opponents will be very well motivated after losing to us last year," said Petrzela. "Pasching have also had some setbacks in the league, so they're hungry for success. However, I think Zenit can beat Pasching even away from home, although we'd take a score draw right now." Doubtless the hosts will have other ideas.