From the beginning of Tuesday's match, Zenit looked to be a team desperately short of match practice. And indeed, the Russian Premier League leaders hadn't played a competitive fixture since Dec. 11.
The Russian Premier League's traditional winter break began 10 days prior and is scheduled to run until March 6.
The winter in Russia is cold and, of course, does not lend itself to playing football outdoors in January or even February. Yet the Champions League is played on a calendar that is meant to suit teams from all European countries, an impossible task.
It's a big problem for teams from Russia and other northern countries to have to compete in international matches without having had more than a few friendlies to prepare.
It also is a problem for visiting teams that they may have to visit Russia at a time of year that the Russian Premier League considers the weather unsuitable for football. Tuesday's match was played under unseasonably warm conditions (temperature at kick-off was 37 degrees Fahrenheit), but the match—as many Europa League fixtures have—could easily have been scheduled to take place during a blizzard.
The Russian Premier League would be wise to consider changing its schedule, perhaps to include one or two matchdays played in February in a warmer climate, giving players a chance to find their form. Otherwise, embarrassments like Tuesday's may continue.