Sunday 11 December 2016

Zenit St Petersburg in focus

Published 02/11/2016 | 15:06

Mircea Lucescu will want to see Zenit St Petersburg get the better of Dundalk
Mircea Lucescu will want to see Zenit St Petersburg get the better of Dundalk

League of Ireland Premier Division side Dundalk are away to Zenit St Petersburg in the Europa League on Thursday night.

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Here, Press Association Sport takes a closer look at the Russians ahead of the Group D tie.

MANAGER

Romanian Mircea Lucescu took over from former Chelsea and Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas at the start of the 2016-17 campaign. The 71-year-old has a wealth of coaching experience from spells in charge of the Romania national team, Dinamo Bucharest, Inter Milan, Galatasaray, Besiktas and more recently a 12-year stint at Shakhtar Donetsk, where he won the 2009 UEFA Cup. Lucescu also guided the Ukrainian side to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2010, when they were beaten by eventual winners Barcelona. In his last campaign with Shakhtar, they reached the semi-finals of Europa League, only to be knocked out by eventual winners Sevilla.

FORM

Zenit have won all three of their Europa League ties so far, scoring twice in the second half to record a 2-1 victory at the Tallaght Stadium last month. The Russians also won 4-3 away at Maccabi Tel-Aviv with a late goal spree and trashed AZ Alkmaar 5-0 in St Petersburg. Zenit will be guaranteed a place in the last 32 if they avoid defeat against Dundalk. Domestically, Lucescu's side sit top of the Russian Premier League, unbeaten so far in 12 matches with eight wins. Zenit did, however, lose 4-0 at Anzhi Makhachkala in a Russian Cup tie last week before returning to winning ways when they defeated Tom Tomsk 1-0.

KEY MAN

Signed from Gremio in July for around seven million euros (£6.2million), Brazilian midfielder Giuliano has weighed in with eight goals so far this season. The attack-minded playmaker has helped feed the supply line to Russian frontmen Artem Dzyuba and Aleksandr Kokorin. It was Giuliano's strike on 77 minutes which completed Zenit's comeback in Dublin and Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny will know keeping the 26-year-old quiet will be the key to the Irish team's hopes of a positive result.

EUROPEAN PEDIGREE

Zenit are now regulars on the European football scene. Winners of the UEFA Cup in 2008, the owners of the ambitious Russian club have their sights on making an impact in the latter stages of the Champions League, having three times reached the last 16. Villas-Boas took Zenit through qualifying for last season's group stages, where they went on to finish top of Group H ahead of Gent. However, defeat then followed at the hands of Portuguese side Benfica.

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