The UEFA Cup's joint-top scorer is suspended for the final against Rangers FC but Pavel Pogrebnyak still hopes to find consolation in lifting the famous trophy.
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The UEFA Cup's joint-top scorer is suspended for Wednesday's final against Rangers FC but Pavel Pogrebnyak of FC Zenit St. Petersburg still hopes to find consolation in lifting the trophy.
It is a moot point who will deserve the greater sympathy when Pogrebnyak sits out the final, having collected his third knockout-stage booking in the dismantling of FC Bayern München. Zenit may find it more difficult to break down the Rangers defence, while the Russian international forward faces the "very cruel" prospect of training but not playing with his team-mates at the City of Manchester Stadium. The 24-year-old said: "It is a great pity I won't be able to help my team in the final, but hopefully they can win without me. Finals do not come thick and fast for a footballer and I was bitterly disappointed [to be banned]."
Pogrebnyak at least felt part of the pre-match build-up when he took part in Zenit's press conference and then the UEFA Fair Play draw. Such involvement, though, is scant reward for his exploits in Europe this season. Pogrebnyak opened and closed the scoring in the 4-0 win over Bayern in the semi-final second leg to take his tournament tally to ten. His double against Olympique de Marseille in the Round of 16 return match enabled the Russian title-holders to recover a 3-1 deficit and advance on away goals. "I have produced some really good performances and have helped us reach the final. It was great to play against and beat a team like Bayern," he said. "However, I will be even happier if I can lift the cup above my head on Wednesday night."
The striker is no stranger to silverware after firing Dick Advocaat's side to their first post-independence national championship with eleven goals in 24 Premier-Liga games. Yet at the time of Zenit's November coronation, a UEFA Cup final in north-west England looked a remote possibility. "We did not expect to make the final," said the powerful front man, who played for FC Spartak Moskva, FC Baltika Kaliningrad, FC Khimki and FC Shinnik Yaroslavl before hitting 13 league goals and the headlines with FC Tom Tomsk in 2006. "I think the reason we have done so well in Europe is that we prepared ourselves specifically for the UEFA Cup during the winter."
The free-scoring epithet applies equally to Pogrebnyak and Zenit, suggesting a busy night even for the famed Rangers back line. The No8, however, refuses to underestimate the Scottish club. "After defeating Bayern, I would like to say that Zenit are favourites, but I won't do because this is a one-off match. Rangers are very strong in defence and the odds are 50-50."