UEFA Europa League Preview: Zenit St. Petersburg-CD Nacional (Leg Two)

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UEFA Europa League Preview: Zenit St. Petersburg-CD Nacional (Leg Two)

The objective for Zenit St. Petersburg is simple really.

Win, or they are out of the UEFA Europa League. After falling 4-3 in Madeira to Portuguese side CD Nacional, they are not exactly attempting to overcome Himalayan mountain.

For the longest time, the match appeared to be headed for a 4-2 victory for CD Nacional. But in the 93rd minute, heroics from Turkish striker Fatih Tekke brought Zenit within one, and more importantly, kept the Petersburgers at an arm's length.

A one goal deficit is obviously, much easier to deal with than a two goal margin.

But regardless how it looks on paper, the team must find a way to win at the Petrovsky Stadium tomorrow evening, and win without conceding four goals. For a team that has only won once in their last six Russian Premier League matches, this could be a potential problem.

Anatoliy Davydov's starting 11 should also be reasonably different than the one that made the 3000 mile trek to Madeira. Defenders Dong-jin Kim and Ivica Krizanac have returned from South Korea and Croatia.

Midfielders Konstantin Zyryanov and Igor Semshov are well-rested, and 20-year-old Aleksei Ionov made a successful return from injury over the weekend.

The Petrovsky faithful, knowing the situation, will do anything it can to will the team to victory.

Here is the projected line-up (4-4-2 formation).

GoalkeeperVyacheslav Malafeev. The Russian international has been shaky at best over the last few weeks, but he will most likely be in net once more. After apologizing to the fans for a mistake that cost Zenit three points this past weekend against Lokomotiv Moscow, Malafeev is as focused as ever.

DefendersAleksandr Anyukov (C), Fernando Meira, Nicolas Lombaerts, Dong-jin Kim. Anyukov has easily been Zenit's best and most reliable defender over the season. Ivica Krizanac will also be on the bench and could get into the match, but he has not played in weeks so it is unlikely.

Kim was very good in his return over the weekend, showing superb pace. Lombaerts, since making his first appearance of the season back in July, has got better with every start.

Midfielders: Konstantin Zyryanov, Igor Semshov, Alessandro RosinaSzabolcs Huszti. Zyryanov and Semshov are aging, but are still game-changers. Rosina has been so good in his last few matches that he simply must start one of this importance. Huszti is now an automatic to pencil in.

Igor Denisov will also be available to play, but it is questionable after sustaining an injury in the last match against CD Nacional.

Forwards: Fatih Tekke, Pavel Ignatovich (pictured above). Tekke has made it a very easy decision for Davydov that he needs to start. With two very solid outings in a row, he is playing as well as ever. 20-year-old Ignatovich has never started for Zenit, but he will now. After a superb week of practice and scoring 20 seconds on against Nacional, even though it was called offsides, he has proved to be ready.

A prolific goal scorer who has netted 11 times in 16 appearances for the Zenit U-21 squad, his speed will be of much use in countering CD Nacional's pace. Belarusian Sergei Kornilenko will also be available.

 

Recent Performance

Zenit is 2-1-2 in it's last five games. CD Nacional is also 2-1-2. Zenit played to a one all draw at the Petrovsky this past weekend with Lokomotiv Moscow, while CD Nacional visited FC Porto and lost 3-0.

 

Players To Watch

Zenit St. Petersburg

None other than Alessandro Rosina. "Rosinaldo" has been phenomenal thus far while playing for Zenit, and is now in top form. Since joining the team in late July, his performance has improved as he has adjusted to St. Petersburg.

CD Nacional

Although they lost Nenê in the offseason, young midfielder João Aurélio looks to step up in his place. Aurélio has already scored twice in three matches, and presented problems any time he touched the ball.  

 

Notes

Of other importance, the summer transfer window is approaching very quickly and Zenit are becoming desperate for new players.

They have been in contact with Tottenham Hotspur about acquiring Roman Pavlyuchenko and are believed to have a deal in place that would bring bullet attacking winger Vladimir Bystrov back to St. Petersburg from Spartak Moscow.

 

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