Zenit St Petersburg looking for boost as Russian League resumes
Zenit St Petersburg hope to consolidate their lead in the Russian Premiership against lowly visitors Ural Yekaterinburg on Saturday when the league resumes from a long winter lay-off.
Moscow: Zenit St Petersburg hope to consolidate their lead in the Russian Premiership against lowly visitors Ural Yekaterinburg on Saturday when the league resumes from a long winter lay-off.
Zenit top the Premier League table with 41 points from 17 matches, seven ahead of second-placed defending champions CSKA Moscow.
However, Zenit have already shaken off some of their rustiness after a three-month league break by hammering Dutch league leaders PSV Eindhoven 4-0 on aggregate in the round of 32 of the Europa League.
"We had a chance to get some rhythm already against PSV", Zenit head coach Andre Villas-Boas said.
"We have to be very strong...and we want to make the most out of the small advantage that we have.
"The situation with the team right now is good because of the (Europa League) wins, which are very good motivation. But this is the first official (Premier League) game and we hope that we can be at our level," the former Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur coach added.
"And the important part is to win and maintain the distance from our rivals."
For Saturday`s game, Zenit, who have drawn Italian club Torino in the last 16 of the Europa League, will be without injured midielders Andrei Arshavin and Viktor Faizulin.
Meanwhile, the participation of star forward Hulk is in doubt as the Brazilian caught a cold earlier this week and has not yet recovered completely.
The reigning champions CSKA, fresh from beating Samara 1-0 to reach the semi-finals of the Russian Cup, will try to maintain their momentum when they go to Terek Grozny on Saturday.
"We`re ready for the league restart and will strive to narrow the gap to Zenit," said CSKA head coach Leonid Slutsky, who is remaining bullish despite seeing Ivorian striker Seydou Doumbia leave for Italian giants Roma during the winter break.
"We`ll do our best to keep our chances of retaining the title alive until the end," added Slutsky, whose team are chasing a third straight championship crown.
Meanwhile, third-placed Dynamo Moscow, who beat Belgian champions Anderlecht to qualify for a Europa League last-16 tie against Napoli, will face Ufa on Sunday.
Dynamo, who won their last league championship back in 1976, are eager to end their title drought this season.
"There`s one thing that I want to bring home from here very much," Dynamo`s Congolese defender Cristopher Samba told media. "That`s the Russian league trophy."
"I know it will be difficult to leapfrog CSKA and especially Zenit but my teammates and me are all hungry and we will definitely do our best to win the title this year."
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Terek Grozny v CSKA Moscow (1300), Zenit St Petersburg v Ural Yekaterinburg (1600)
Spartak Moscow V FC Krasnodar (1030), Dynamo Moscow v Ufa (1300), Rostov v Lokomotiv Moscow (1530)
Amkar Perm v Torpedo Moscow (1000), Rubin Kazan v Arsenal Tula (1230), Kuban Krasnodar v Mordovia Saransk (1500)