Europa League Special Part 11: Contenders for the trophy – FC Zenit St. Petersburg

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Europa League Special Part 11: Contenders for the trophy – FC Zenit St. Petersburg 
Football Club Zenit St. Petersburg
The newly crowned Russian Champions are a club from the city of Saint Petersburg. The club was found in 1925 and has spent most of its time in the first division. Zenit was formed as a result of various mergers and didn’t do very well in its earlier
In the days of old, when USSR was still intact, the league was in a constant flux and the leaders could inflict their decisions at will. Zenit were even saved the relegation blushes because the authorities thought it would be imprudent relegating a
club on the 50th anniversary of October Revolution.
Zenit were relegated in the inaugural year of the Russian Premier League (1992) but returned in the year 1996. The club had moderate success for a decade before they won the Russian Premier League in 2007. The club won the Europa League (formerly known
as UEFA Cup) and the UEFA Super cup but lost the league title the following year. With appointment of Luciano Spalletti however, Zenit have broken a plethora of records and have secured the league titles with games to spare. Spalletti has a rich squad and
will try to regain the Europa League title for the club.
Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1
With the arrival of star Portuguese defender Bruno Alves, Zenit have managed to add class to an already strong defence. Club captain Aleksandr Anyukov plays on the right of defence while Serbian International Aleksandar Lukovic plays on the left. Fernando
Meira partners Bruno Alves in the heart of the defence. In goal, Spalletti has Russia’s number two goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev. The custodian has been a servant to the club for long and can be relied upon when called in action.
Zenit have club captain Vyacheslav Malafeev and Roman Shirokov provide a solid base in the midfield for the attacking players. Portuguese International Danny is responsible for the playmaking in the trequartista role while Viktor Fayzulin and Vladimir
Bystrov line up on the flanks. All the aforementioned players have bags full of International caps to their names thus providing the club with a wealth of big stage experience that smaller clubs would pay for. Spalletti has the luxury of having a host of International
players as his backup; the club can deal with worst of injury problems.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov is undoubtedly the star attacking player for Spalletti. The Russian International has scored 13 league goals in 28 appearances; not the best of returns, but his link up play is sublime. Spalletti has the likes of Danko Lazović and
Aleksandr Bukharov to count upon in Kerzhakov’s absence. Zenit attackers are highly versatile – just like Spalletti’s Roma forwards – thus, giving Spalletti plenty of options in attack. The versatility also enables the Italian to tweak his tactics during the
matches without disrupting the flow of the game.
Key player:
Danny was signed by Zenit in 2008 for a Russian Premier League record of 30 million Euros. Following a difficult start, the playmaker forward has come into his own in recent times. Already a fan favorite, Danny played a vital role in Zenit’s successful
league chase and now looks set to enhance his reputation on the continental stage.
Chances and prediction:
Like fellow Russian side CSKA, Zenit players will have time to nurse their injuries until New Year. With a squad depth matching some of the continent’s best, Spalletti should be able to compete on two fronts; the start of the Russian league and later
stages of Europa league. The Italian had to bow out in the Champions League preliminaries so he will look to make for his earlier short comings by clinching the less glamorous trophy. Zenit will make it to the semi-finals and should key players remain injury
free, the club can go on to win the trophy.



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