A large portion of Borussia Dortmund fans have been targeted for attack ahead of their Champions League round of 16 first-leg tie against Zenit Saint Petersburg in Russia.
As reported by BVB fans' liaison officer Jens Volke via Stephan Uersfeld of ESPN FC, German followers were chased through Saint Petersburg by groups of "up to 20" locals.
It is thought between 50 to 60 travelling fans have come into contact with hostile hosts, "with one suffering a fractured nose and others sustaining more minor injuries," according to the report.
This occurrence will not aid the reputation of Zenit fans, who have seen part of the Petrovsky Stadium closed due to a recent stint of violent clashes involving the club's Ultras, per an alternate ESPN report:
UEFA said the Russian club had been punished for "the racist behaviour of fans -- namely the displaying of a banner -- the setting-off and throwing of fireworks and crowd disturbances" during their 4-1 defeat at Austria Vienna on Dec. 11.
Michael Wollny of Eurosport's German branch confirmed fans are being told to take refuge inside their hotel rooms "and not travel alone into the city," as noted on the website's coverage. At the time of writing, Russian media are yet to report the alleged trouble.
Having not played since their last European game in December due to the lengthy Russian winter break, Zenit's fans have had little opportunity to cause a disturbance since the partial stadium closure was ordered.
This off-the-field misbehaviour fails to aid the preparation of a side that will quickly need to shrug off rustiness against the visiting Bundesliga team. Although Dortmund arrive just days after suffering a 3-0 demolition in the game with Hamburg, Jurgen Klopp's men are more than a match for any team that remains in the competition.
Zenit boss Luciano Spalletti spoke positively about the club's support prior to the match, reported by UEFA:
The Champions League commands a lot of effort and attention and can affect the preceding game or the one that follows. We are working to keep pace and, in time, grow and improve. Behind us we have a big city and a huge number of fans who care about the club.
The Italian coach also called upon his players to "not just write a chapter in our history, but to put the title on the cover story of Zenit," during their important encounter with last year's Champions League runner-ups.
Dortmund are no strangers to controversy of their own and recently had 498 fans banned from Schalke's Veltins-Arena after flares were thrown from the away end during the Revierderby on Oct. 26, reported by Raphael Honigstein of The Guardian.
Most recently, a Dortmund fan was banned from the Westfalenstadion for six years after shouting a Nazi remark during a minute's silence, per Enis Koylu of Goal.com.
Both Dortmund and Zenit will feel they have an excellent chance of advancing to the Champions League quarterfinals, but the Russian support's alleged attacks will only incur further punishment on the side that is currently leading the nation's top division.
This ensures a limited atmosphere inside the stadium and less support for players who have a momentous task on their hands if they are to achieve Spalletti's goal. UEFA will be watching Zenit's every move after recent events, ensuring a small minority of fans could ruin the prospects of all.
If the alleged assaults are proven to be true, the governing body may opt to take further action against Zenit as a warning shot to the club and any other groups who seek to initiate violence.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!