Beset by injuries, suspensions and 2-0 down in their last-16 tie against Udinese Calcio they may be, but FC Zenit St. Petersburg are not giving up, with Dick Advocaat sure the holders can "make it to the quarter-finals".
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Beset by injuries, suspensions and 2-0 down in their last-16 tie against Udinese Calcio they may be, but FC Zenit St. Petersburg are not giving up, with Dick Advocaat sure the holders can "make it to the quarter-finals" again.
Having conceded two late goals at the Friuli Stadium last week, to Fabio Quagliarella and Antonio Di Natale, the 2007/08 UEFA Cup winners have it all to do at the Petrovsky Stadium, but their coach insists they can take heart from last season's Round of 16 when they lost 3-1 at Olympique de Marseille yet progressed on away goals with a 2-0 home win.
"We are nearly in the same situation as last year," said Advocaat, whose side drew 1-1 at FC Spartak Moskva last weekend in their first game of the Russian season; Pavel Pogrebnyak scoring a thunderous free-kick. "We believe we can make it to the quarter-finals. We have all the qualities to get the result we need."
Zenit have class, yet what they lack for Thursday's return leg is players. Centre-back Roman Shirokov and right-back Aleksandr Anyukov are suspended, fellow defenders Tomáš Hubočan and Nicolas Lombaerts are shaking off injuries, while captain Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is unlikely to play after experiencing breathing problems following a knock to his ribs against Spartak.
Amid all this, Zenit must score at least twice to keep the tie alive – a feat they have not managed in any European match since their UEFA Super Cup victory over Manchester United FC in August – but Advocaat still thinks they have the beating of Udinese. "Udinese are good in midfield and attack but their defence is a bit slow," he concluded.
Hot and cold
Visiting striker Quagliarella knows the job is far from complete for Udinese as he looks to add to his five-goal UEFA Cup haul in Russia, noting: "This will be a completely different game from the one at the Friuli – the cold weather, the hot atmosphere their fans will create, plus they will have to start to attack from the first minute."
Udinese have staff problems too. Andrea Coda, Damiano Ferronetti and Fernando Tissone are all injured, while Maurizio Domizzi is suspended, though goalkeeper Samir Handanovič is available after overcoming a minor complaint which kept him out of Sunday's 1-1 draw with Calcio Catania. "We need to score as early as possible," Quagliarella added. "We must play with the same fighting spirit as in the first leg. I like Zenit's composure on the ball – they have skilful players and are comfortable in possession. We will have to press them in every area of the pitch as we did last week."