Udinese – Zenit, UEFA CupBy: Alexander | March 12th, 2009
UEFA Cup holders Zenit St. Petersburg continue their 2008/09 campaign with a game at Udinese tonight. The team arrived to Udine on Tuesday and was accommodated in Astoria hotel (interesting fact that the same hotel was booked by Stutgart after the first leg of the previous round – which was pretty prematurely from the Germans, especially after 1:2 defeat).
Dick Advocaat said during press-conference: “Udinese probably deserve higher place in the table; they have about 20 players of the same very good level and their coach knows how to use his players in 4-3-3 formation. We also prefer 4-3-3, though I don’t like to do rotation”.
Zenit is still without injured Lombaerts and Hubocan, but Timoshchuk and Sirl return from suspension. Both games vs. Stutgart showed that Zenit is in very good form, though Russian league season starts only on Saturday. Team movement was fast as usual, new signings – Semshov and Huszti – fitted in easily. There were some mistakes and slight misunderstanding in defence, – but this is explainable and normal for the first games after winter break.
I saw Udinese only once – when they defeated Spartak Moscow on group stage, so can’t say anything on their current form. But it seems to me the Italians don’t thoroughly understand what a fast and aggressive opponent they have got now. Of course, statistics is not in Zenit’s favour: Russian clubs won only 1 game from 18 in Italy, and Zenit lost both games to Juventus last autumn.. – but I have a feeling that we are able to go through this tie confidently. Even a draw would be an OK result: Zenit’s chances in the game in St. Petersburg will be much higher, – it will be the first, season opening home game, so the atmosphere will be tremendous. Last spring home results were: Villareal 1:0, Marseille 2:0, Bayern 4:0, and I can’t see any reason why not to repeat the same impressive run.
Zenit at Friuli stadium, Udine (c) FC-Zenit.ru
And transfer news: Zenit has signed Portuguese international defender Fernando Meira from Galatasaray. This is the 3rd (and the last) newcomer during winter break, he signed 3-years contract and got #3 shirt – which belonged to current Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel in the golden 2007 season. Meira (1978) started his career at Vitoria Guimaraes, then was bought in 2000 by Benfica (the first buying of Jose Mourinho), where he became a captain very soon. Meira then moved to Stutgart, became a captain there too, and won Bundesliga in 2007. Hope we’ll see him on the pitch very soon; Zenit starts the league season with a clash against Moscow rivals Spartak on Sunday.