Erik Gerets hopes FC Zenit St. Petersburg's disciplinary problems will benefit Olympique de Marseille as they fly the flag for French sides in the UEFA Cup Round of 16.
Erik Gerets hopes FC Zenit St. Petersburg's disciplinary problems will help Olympique de Marseille as they fly the flag for France in the UEFA Cup Round of 16.
Marseille overcame Zenit's Russian Premier-Liga rivals FC Spartak Moskva in the last 32, but Gerets is taking little comfort from that as his side play host to Dick Advocaat's men. "They will come here to score," said Gerets. "I know Dick quite well. He is not a defensive coach and knows as well as I do scoring a goal away is a huge step towards qualification." Marseille scouts watched Zenit as they overcame Villarreal CF in the Round of 32 and noted they had two players sent off in the second leg, while Advocaat himself is beginning a three-match ban for gross misconduct. "They are regularly shown red cards because they have a very physical game," said Gerets, adding that Advocaat's exile in the stands "could help" Marseille.
With Olympique Lyonnais bowing out of the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday night, Marseille are now France's sole representatives left in UEFA club competition. "I feel sorry for Lyon but I am not going to be flying the France flag now," said midfielder Samir Nasri. "I'm just focused on the game and what we have to do to make the difference at home ahead of a tough away leg." The 20-year-old's skills have helped Marseille climb to fourth in Ligue 1 and he may be made captain for the night with Julien Rodriguez nursing an ankle injury and Lorik Cana suspended. Nasri played in Marseille's previous game against Zenit, a 1-0 home defeat and 1-1 away draw at the same stage of the 2005/06 UEFA Cup. "It is a really bad memory and since then Zenit have strengthened," the French international said. "It will be a tough game."
Vladislav Radimov played for Zenit in both of those games and agreed with Nasri's assessment, adding: "We are not only stronger, but more solid. Back then Zenit went from bright performances to complete disasters, but not anymore. We beat them before, but I am sure Marseille remember the result, so they will want to get even." The French club's cause may be helped by Zenit's defensive crisis. With Nicolas Lombaerts injured and Roman Shirokov suspended, 38-year-old midfielder Aleksandr Gorshkov may be forced to partner Ivica Križanac as a makeshift centre-back. "Am I ready to play in defence? Do I have a choice?" he said. "If I am in the team, I will play where the coach puts me." Zenit also have problems going forward, and with Alejandro Dominguez and Fatih Tekke injured, Pavel Pogrebnyak may plough a lonely furrow up front.