The Zenit dominated the group stage and is going to meet with rather strong Belgium’s Anderlecht. The St. Petersburg team is on the right track which can be seen from the results of the group stage, but obviously needs strengthening in defense.
Zenit St. Petersburg, which won the UEFA Cup in 2008, dominated the group stage having won 5 of 6 games with a nice goal difference 17-8. In Russian championship, The Russian Football Premier League, the situation is the same. After 17 matches Zenit are second with a five point gap behind the leader, Spartak Moscow and an ultimate leader in scoring (33) and number of defeats (just 2). These figures reflect the philosophy of the new coach Mircha Lucescu with fast movement from defense to attack and plenty of combination and control of ball. Not surprisingly, that Zenit’s Juliano became the best scorer of the group stage.
So, are Zenit unbeatable? Not in the least. First of all, Lucescu has paradoxically small reserve. “Paradoxically” is because FC Zenit St. Petersburg is the wealthiest club in Russia and maybe one of the wealthiest in Europe with the Gazprom corporation as an owner. Secondly, the average age of Zenit’s players is 29, and as Mr Lucescu recently noted they are not getting younger. The biggest problem of Zenit now is the defense line which lacks highly qualified players. As well, then goalkeeper Yuri Lodygin has been constantly strongly criticized for his consistent mistakes.
So, much will depend on what players Zenit will manage to sign during the winter pause in the Russian Premier League and the LE.
The first game takes place on February, 16 in Brussels, the other in St. Petersburg on February, 23.
photo by Anna Polyakova
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