Advocaat aims to pass United test
Monday, 25 August 2008
FC Zenit St. Petersburg coach Dick Advocaat says the UEFA Super Cup against Manchester United FC "is like an exam which will show what our team is capable of".
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FC Zenit St. Peterburg coach Dick Advocaat says the UEFA Super Cup against Manchester United FC will be "a good test" for his side ahead of their maiden UEFA Champions League campaign.
The Dutch coach believes the game has come "at a right time" and views the Monaco showpiece as ideal preparation for the group stage which gets under way on 16 September. "This match will be a good test for us before the start in the Champions League," Advocaat told uefa.com. "This is like an exam which will show what our team is capable of. United are a very famous and a very strong opponent who we will treat with a lot of respect."
Advocaat believes the match will also provide a welcome break from domestic duties. Zenit are sixth as they look to defend their title and are already passed the mid-point of the Premier-Liga campaign. "Our domestic calendar has been very busy, but we have had time to prepare for the match in Monaco," he said. "It will be easier psychologically as well, because in the domestic league the fans expect only victories – there is more pressure."
Zenit showed they are a dangerous proposition when the pressure is off by defeating favourites FC Bayern München 5-1 on aggregate en route to lifting the UEFA Cup last season. Zenit will kick off the UEFA Super Cup as underdogs as well, but Advocaat warned against expecting a repeat of that semi-final performance against United. "That comparison could be true with one difference – United are stronger than Bayern," said the 60-year-old.
Zenit defeated Rangers FC 2-0 to claim the UEFA Cup last May, bringing both Zenit and Advocaat their first silverware on the European stage. Since then, though, the Russian champions have had to endure some testing times. "Many things have changed since then," continued Advocaat. "After EURO 2008, the Russian internationals returned worn out. We also had a difficult schedule in the league. The transfer saga of Andrei Arshavin is taking too long as well. Finally, nobody expected us to be so strong before, so now things are more difficult for us."
Arshavin, who enhanced his burgeoning reputation at UEFA EURO 2008™ by delivering match-winning performances against Sweden and the Netherlands, announced his desire to leave the club after the tournament. Zenit have since rejected an official bid from FC Barcelona, while Tottenham Hotspur FC have also reportedly made an offer for the playmaker. "This story has lasted six weeks now and I won't deny it has had a negative impact on the team and our results," Advocaat said. "I hope in the next few days there will be clarity this way or that."
Advocaat left Arshavin out of the squad which defeated FC Krylya Sovetov Samara on Sunday, saying "his head is occupied with other thoughts" and Zenit's €30m signing of creative midfielder Danny on Monday heightened speculation Arshavin could soon be on the way out. Danny's arrival has not come a moment too soon. Between 6 July and 10 August Zenit played ten competitive matches, some of which were rescheduled from May when Zenit were involved the UEFA Cup. Recruiting new talent, though, has not been easy. "To compete with such a busy calendar, we need more players," Advocaat said. "Unfortunately, few good players agree to move to Russia. It's not about the level of the league, because the level is high. More likely, it is about infrastructure and the long flights to away games."