Udinese Calcio are the last Italian team standing in this season's UEFA Cup and their Swiss midfielder Gökhan Inler feels that is "an extra motivation" to the Friulani who face holders FC Zenit St. Petersburg in the Round of 16.
Article top media content
Gökhan Inler feels Udinese Calcio's place as the last Italian team standing in the UEFA Cup is "an extra motivation" to his side ahead of the first instalment of their Round of 16 tie with holders FC Zenit St. Petersburg at the Stadio Friuli.
"We are the only Italian team left in the competition and that's an extra motivation for us to play a great game against Zenit," said Inler. "We have to try to score from the first minute but not conceding will be crucial ahead of the return leg in St Petersburg. We know we cannot afford any mistakes and we have to be focused for the entire 90 minutes."
Udinese have suffered just one defeat in their last nine outings after ending an eight-game winless run in late January, including Saturday's 1-1 draw at AS Roma. And with the threat of relegation from Serie A now gone, Inler is looking forward to an extended run in Europe. "The UEFA Cup is very important to us and we believe we can do it on Thursday," the 24-year-old midfielder continued. "[Zenit] are the holders and I saw them playing in the Champions League. They are solid and well organised." Aleksandar Luković (knee) and Mauricio Isla (calf) are doubtful for Udinese, who will have Fabio Quagliarella (flu) back. Fernando Tissone (thigh) is still out.
The 2009 Russian season does not kick off until this weekend and UEFA Cup holders Zenit have left nothing to chance for this tie as they travelled to Marbella in Spain for warm-weather training. Dick Advocaat's side have only played two competitive games since 10 December, winning both legs of their UEFA Cup Round of 32 tie with VfB Stuttgart last month, and Russian goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev is aware that Zenit face another tough test against the Friulani. "We're playing against a strong team which I may describe as typically Italian," he said. "They play sensibly and are not easy opponents." Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Radek Širl return from suspension but Nicolas Lombaerts and Tomáš Hubočan are ruled out through injury.