Match: Zenit St. Petersburg vs Real Madrid, Group H, Champions League 2008-2009
Date: 30 September 2008, Tuesday
Venue: Petrovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Kick off: 17:30 BST (British Standard Time)
Real Madrid is the defending champion of Spanish La Liga, but they are currently in the 3rd position after five matches with 12 points under their belt. However, Real Madrid’s recent form has been pretty much satisfactory. In their previous league match, Real Madrid defeated Real Betis 2-1. Real Madrid won their last five matches in all competitions. So, Real Madrid players must be full of confident while taking on Zenit St. Petersburg.
Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster admits that it will be a very difficult game in Russia. In this crucial match, Real Madrid will miss a key midfielder Wesley Sneijder who has been ruled out of the match with leg injury. Guti and Fernando Gago are also out with leg injury. So, Bernd Schuster will have to contend with the injuries of some of his key players ahead of the trip to Zenit St. Petersburg. New signing Rafael van der Vaart will not have to play a crucial role in the midfielder in the absence of some important players. The good news is that Rafael van der Vaart has been in good from with highest four goals for Real Madrid so far this season. After sitting out Real Madrid’s 2-0 victory over BATE Borisov on suspension, midfielder Ruben is also ready to feature against Zenit St. Petersburg. However, Real boss Bernd Schuster has a number of options in his attacking line up in the presence of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Gonzalo Higuai and club Captain Raul Gonzalez. In fact, all of the three strikers are in good form.
Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg has got off to a poor start in domestic league and they are already way out of title defense challenge. Even coach Dick Advocaat admitted that Zenit’s aim would be now to finish the league at second or third position so that they can qualify for Champions League next season. Moreover, Zenit lost the first game to Juventus. So, the match against Real Madrid is a crucial match and another defeat would seemingly bring an end to their hopes of progressing to the next round. The Russian club defeated Lokomotiv Moscow 3-0 in their recent league match.
Zenit St. Petersburg will miss defender Ivica Krizanac who has been sidelined by the team manager on disciplinary ground. Vladislav Radimov will also miss the Champions league showdown against Real Madrid as he pulled muscle during practice session. However, long-term absentee striker Fatih Tekke is expected to come back in the starting line up against Real Madrid after recovering from knee injury. Moreover, star midfielder Andrei Arshavin will be back in action after sitting out Zenit’s 3-0 recent victory over Lokomotiv Moscow due to suspension. Now, he will be fresh enough to take on Spanish champions Real Madrid.