Zenit out to maintain Premiership lead in Saransk

Zenit out to maintain Premiership lead in Saransk

Russian Premier League leaders Zenit are hoping to extend their winning run and top spot when they face lowly Mordovia Saransk on Saturday.

On Wednesday Andre Villas-Boas`s side got a big morale-booster in beating Portuguese giants Benfica 1-0 in their Champions League clash to keep alive their chances of qualification for the last 16 stage.

But the former Chelsea and Tottenham manager said that his squad needed to switch their focus onto their domestic league encounter immediately to maintain their lead.

"We`ve stayed in contention for a place in the Champions League knock-out stages," Villas-Boas said. "Now we`re going to Monaco for the win."

"But we should never forget about our season`s second objective - to win the Russian title. And we`re set to win all of the remaining matches this year to hold onto our lead."

Zenit have lost both Nicolas Lombaerts and Javi Garcia to injuries sustained in the match against Benfica in addition to an injury to Russian international forward Alexander Kerzhakov.

"Lombaerts had a pretty serious blow that took him out of the game, while Javi García pulled a muscle and he will likely miss the game against Mordovia," Villas-Boas said. 

"But I hope we`ll be able to cope with this problem as the subs played really well Wednesday."

Meanwhile, reigning champions CSKA Moscow, who have chalked up only one point from their last four Premier League matches, are set on halting their three-match losing run when they take on promoted Ufa also on Saturday.

On Tuesday CSKA saved the day late on in their Champions League encounter with Italian side Roma, snatching a 1-1 draw courtesy of a last-minute equaliser by Vasily Berezutsky.

The Red Army side`s manager Leonid Slutsky said he was pleased with the strong character that his team showed in the match with Roma, adding that he hoped they would perform with such spirit in the domestic league.

"I`m happy that we showed the skills and strong character needed to keep up the suspense in our group until the last matchday," he said.

"I hope that we will be able to perform with the same quality football in the remaining premiership matches to stay in the race for the title."

Second-placed FC Krasnodar, who crashed out of the Europa League following a 1-1 draw with French club Lille on Thursday, are facing a tough test of their ambitions in Sunday`s match at Terek Grozny.

"Of course we wanted to go through (in the Europa League)," Krasnodar manager Oleg Kononov said.

"And I`m proud of my players who gave everything they have for the win.

"We`re disappointed but now we can concentrate completely on our performance in the domestic league. We`re in a good position and will do our best to make it even better."
Fixtures (all times GMT)


Rostov v Amkar Perm (1600)

Arsenal Tula v Ural Yekaterinburg (1030), CSKA Moscow v Ufa (1245), Mordovia Saransk v Zenit St Petersburg (1500), Kuban Krasnodar v Torpedo Moscow (1715)

Lokomotiv Moscow v Spartak Moscow (1030), Rubin Kazan v Dynamo Moscow (1300), Terek Grozny v FC Krasnodar (1530)