Zenit St Petersburg looking for boost ahead of Champions League decider
Zenit St Petersburg hope to consolidate their lead in the Russian Premiership against FC Krasnodar on Saturday ahead of their crucial Champions League decider away at Monaco next week.
Moscow: Zenit St Petersburg hope to consolidate their lead in the Russian Premiership against FC Krasnodar on Saturday ahead of their crucial Champions League decider away at Monaco next week.
Zenit, who have 38 points from 16 matches, will top the Russian league over the two-months winter break whatever the weekend results as FC Krasnodar and reigning champions CSKA Moscow, level second, both trail the leaders by seven points.
A hard-fought 1-0 win over former two-time champions Rubin Kazan kept up Zenit`s momentum in midweek and coach Andre Villas-Boas wants to maintain their winning run ahead of the key European tie.
"We`re still in contention for a place in the Champions League knock-out stages," Villas-Boas said.
"Now we`re going to Monaco for the win to go through.
The Russians need to beat Monaco if they are to qualify for the knock-out phase as they lie third in Group C behind Bayer Leverkusen on nine points and Monaco on eight with the sixth and final group phase matchday this week.
"In our last match at Kazan the players demonstrated excellent motivation and a great mindset. We desperately need to keep our winning spirit until the match at Monaco."
On Saturday, Villas-Boas will be able to strengthen his attacking line with Brazilian star Hulk, who sat out the match in Kazan after picking up his fourth booking of the season.
Meanwhile, forward Alexander Kerzhakov and Spaniard Javi Garcia, who both missed Zenit`s recent matches through injuries, remain uncertain for the upcoming encounters.
FC Krasnodar recorded a 1-1 draw midweek in a clash with city rivals Kuban.
"Zenit currently have the most solid and consistent game in the Premier League," Krasnodar head coach Oleg Kononov said.
"It will be really tough against them especially at their home turf where they will enjoy the support of a packed Petrovsky stadium.
"But we are all set to perform at our best in Saint Petersburg. It`s the last match before the break and we don`t need to reserve power for the Europa League match with Everton as we`ve lost our chances to advance."
CSKA Moscow will also have to undergo a serious test to their ambitions against Kuban, who are still seeking their first win since Leonid Kuchuk took over the club on November 17.
CSKA, who thrashed 6-0 Kuban in their season`s first meeting, are also in a must-win position to keep their chances of retaining the domestic title alive and to boost their morale ahead of the deciding Champions League match at Bayern Munich.
"We`ve played a very tense match with Amkar on Tuesday," CSKA manager Leonid Slutsky said.
"Now we need to show the same quality football and strong character in the remaining domestic and the Champions League matches to go on vacation with a sense of accomplishment."
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Zenit St Petersburg v FC Krasnodar (1345), Kuban Krasnodar v CSKA Moscow (1600)
Terek Grozny v Lokomotiv Moscow (1030), Dynamo Moscow v Amkar Perm (1300)
Torpedo Moscow v Ufa (1400), Mordovia Saransk v Rubin Kazan (1400), Rostov v Arsenal Tula (1600), Spartak Moscow v Ural Yekaterinburg (1700)