Zenit St Petersburg - Malaga Preview: Russian champions face must-win clash against Group C leaders
Luciano Spalletti's side will be eliminated from the Champions League if they fail to beat the Primera Division outfit and AC Milan overcome Anderlecht in the other group match
By Karthick Arvinth
ZENIT ST PETERSBURG
Anyukov, Hubocan, Alves, Yanbaev
Witsel, Denisov, Shirokov
Bystrov, Kerzhakov, Hulk
Gamez, Demichelis, Weligton, Eliseu
Portillo, Isco, Duda
Zenit St Petersburg have been boosted by the return of Hulk from a thigh injury ahead of Wednesday's crucial encounter with Malaga at the Petrovsky Stadium.
Winger Viktor Fayzulin is also available after shaking off a minor knee problem, but left-back Domenico Criscito is sidelined.
Malaga are without Carlos Kameni (illness), Nacho Monreal (back), Sergio Sanchez (hamstring) and Julio Baptista (achilles), while Manuel Iturra is suspended.
Coach Manuel Pellegrini has opted to rest Joaquin and Javier Saviola for the trip to Russia, so Roque Santa Cruz could be set for a rare start in attack.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Zenit St Petersburg have won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions.
- The Russian outfit's overall home record against Spanish visitors is W2, D3, L1, with the solitary defeat coming against Real Madrid in the 2008-09 Champions League group stage.
- Zenit's 3-0 loss at Malaga in the reverse fixture equalled their heaviest away defeat in the Champions League.
- Malaga have won just one of their last six matches across all competitions (W1, D3, L2).
- Los Boquerones have suffered just one defeat in 11 away games in European competition.
- Eliseu is Malaga's top scorer in the Champions League this season with four goals.
- The Liga outfit have averaged two goals per game in this season's competition, finding the back of the net eight times in their four matches so far.
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Top 3 Predictions
Zenit 1-2 Málaga
- 16.53 %
Zenit 2-1 Málaga
- 14.01 %
Zenit 1-0 Málaga
- 9.52 %
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||21 Nov 2012||Zenit 2 - Málaga 2|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||18 Sep 2012||Málaga 3 - Zenit 0|
|25 Feb 2014||Zenit 2 - Borussia Dortmund 4||UCL|
|11 Dec 2013||Austria Wien 4 - Zenit 1||UCL|
|6 Dec 2013||Zenit 2 - Ural Sverdlovsk Oblast 1||RUS1|
|1 Dec 2013||Terek Grozny 1 - Zenit 1||RUS1|
|26 Nov 2013||Zenit 1 - Atlético de Madrid 1||UCL|
|21||Sebastián Fernández Miglierina||Striker|
|9||Roque Santa Cruz||Striker|
The €40 million [£32.7m] striker has had a difficult start to life in Russia, having scored just three times in 11 appearances in all competitions for Zenit. The 26-year-old will be desperate to recapture the form that made him one of the most coveted strikers in the world and fire his team to victory over Malaga.
Voted as La Liga's breakthrough player of the year, the young starlet is rapidly establishing himself as the creative hub of the Malaga team with a succession of impressive displays. Isco's form will be key to his side's chances of advancing to the latter stages of the Champions League.
Despite recording disappointing results in La Liga of late, Malaga have looked solid away from home in Europe and will be confident of securing the point they need to finish as group winners. Zenit were dire in the 1-0 defeat at Anderlecht and could struggle to break down the visitors' defence.