Zenit Returns With Game Against Liverpool
Published: February 13, 2013 (Issue # 1746)
After a lengthy two-month winter break, local soccer team FC Zenit will be back on the field Thursday in a European fixture at the Petrovsky stadium against the legendary English soccer team Liverpool FC.
The game will see Zenit continue its European campaign in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, after a premature third-place exit from the first-tier competition, the UEFA Champions League, last winter.
Liverpool already boasts three titles from the competition, making it the most successful club in the history of the Europa League, previously called the UEFA Cup. Zenit won the competition once, back in 2008.
The encounter will be a test for Zenit, as it hopes to rehabilitate itself after the first half of the season brought more controversy than success. The team has been plagued by inter-squad conflicts that led to a drastic fall in performance.
According to Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti, the team is ready for a fresh start after two mid-season training camps in Dubai and Turkey, and a number of friendly games in preparation for the match against Liverpool.
“This is a signal and symptom that the team is growing and gaining momentum,” Spalletti said after the 1:0 win in the last friendly game against Belarus’ FC BATE Borisov.
During the break, Zenit — last year’s Russian champions — added to the squad by signing Portuguese defender Luis Neto from AC Siena for a reported 6 million euros ($8 million) as well as purchasing 21-year-old Serbian defender Milan Rodic from Serbia’s OFK Beograd.
With the Liverpool reds set to clash against Zenit on Thursday, the two new players may get the chance to test their mettle against superstars Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez, as well as ex-Zenit defender Martin Skrtel.