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Bayern hot streak threatens Zenit

The task facing FC Zenit St. Petersburg in Thursday's semi-final first leg will be to end FC Bayern München's good moment before it accounts for their hopes too.

Bayern have found their scoring boots in recent weeks
Bayern have found their scoring boots in recent weeks ©Getty Images

They call them 'Dusel-Bayern'. And another symptom of the alleged lucky Bayern syndrome is that Ottmar Hitzfeld's men go into their biggest test of this UEFA Cup campaign having just experienced a season's high. The task facing FC Zenit St. Petersburg in Thursday's semi-final first leg will be to end FC Bayern München's good moment before it accounts for them too.

Typically, Bayern knockers say, the home side's best form began with a mistake by Getafe CF goalkeeper Pato in that quarter-final epic on 10 April. The error let a forlorn Bayern back into a tie they eventually won on away goals. Subsequently, they have thrashed BV Borussia Dortmund, beaten Eintracht Frankfurt and, last Saturday, lifted the German Cup with an extra-time flourish against Dortmund.

Due warning
Suddenly firing, Bayern are ready to make their own luck again against the Russian champions at the Allianz Arena. If Bayern were caught unawares by Getafe, Spain's European debutants, they have no excuses against Zenit – 4-1 winners at Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the last eight. Coach Hitzfeld said: "We had been warned about Getafe but nobody really knew what to expect. Zenit may also be a novelty, but the fact they defeated Leverkusen means we know what's in front of us. Zenit will be our strongest opponents. They have world-class players and are a new force. We have to stay focused because of their counterattacking threat and must avoid taking risks."

Bayern's fright night in Getafe appears to have had the effect of opening a box of delights for the German club's fans. Their weekend success added the DFB Pokal to the League Cup landed at the start of the season. With the team's ten-point Bundesliga lead suggesting a title procession, the quadruple is on provided Bayern continue the hunt for a second UEFA Cup crown. But they tackle Zenit without the suspended Luca Toni, who has scored two goals in each of the preceding four games. Lukas Podolski should deputise yet Miroslav Klose is doubtful with a foot injury.

No pressure
If the match is "special" for Hitzfeld, being a first European semi-final since the 2000/01 UEFA Champions League, it is also "very important" to Dick Advocaat. Zenit's trainer is glad to take on the Bavarians, saying: "People asked whether I wanted Getafe or Bayern and I said Bayern because we have nothing to lose. We know that against Bayern, they are at home, they have to win, everybody expects them to win, so it is much easier for us to play." According to Advocaat, scalping Leverkusen in Germany remains a source of inspiration. "We scored beautiful goals on the counterattack and can do so again," he said. Confidence also comes from midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk's recovery from a thigh complaint, although an injured toe should keep Aleksandr Anyukov sidelined.

The real mystery surrounding Zenit is the contrast between their European and their domestic results – with the Premier-Liga title-holders showing just one victory from their opening six games of 2008. Advocaat explained: "The reason the league isn't going as well as the UEFA Cup is that the pitches in Russia are terrible at the moment and it is difficult for the players to be as motivated." Bayern's misfortune may be to meet them on a good day.