Return to the Champions League
The current European Cup season for Zenit is special, because the club returns to the Champions League three years later. Petersburgers are eager to prove themselves again in the main European competition and for the fourth time in history to break into the playoffs of the tournament.
To solve this problem, the club conducted a fairly active summer transfer campaign and strengthened almost all lines except the attack. Particularly active in the city on the Neva worked to strengthen the defense, duplicating all the positions. Douglas Santos was purchased on the left flank of defense, Vyacheslav Karavaev on the right flank, and Jordan Osorio was leased to the center from Porto. And if the last two joined the team just before the closing of the transfer window, the Brazilian came back in July and has already won a place in the first team.
Karavaev and Osorio have yet to prove their usefulness. But if Vyacheslav’s chances to get to the start, apparently, are the same as Igor Smolnikov’s, then the defense center will probably not touch the coaching staff without unnecessary need, especially in important matches.
🏆 @ChampionsLeague, group stage, 1 round
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⌚️ 19:55 (St. Petersburg)
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As for the other lines, on the right side of the midfield two players were acquired at once - Malkom and Aleksey Sutormin, who, however, can play both in defense and in attack. True, the ex-football player of Barcelona almost immediately got injured and was out of action for six weeks.
Taking into account the personnel changes in the team in the summer, the coaching staff received a staffed team in which at least two performers aspire for each place. The attack may become the only problem, because Zenit has no other attackers except Serdar Azmun and Artyom Dziuba. Yes, a new contract with the club was signed by Alexander Kokorin, who was released from prison, but he was not included in the application for the Champions League. In addition, while it remains unclear how long the forward will gain form in RPL games.
But for other positions really serious competition will begin. A case in point: the second part of last season, the blue-white-blue ones were held without Alexander Erokhin and Daler Kuzyaev, which did not prevent them from winning the long-awaited championship. Now, to put it mildly, not the last midfielders who, a year ago, got together with the Russian team to the quarterfinals of the World Cup, returned to the squad and were forced to re-prove their need to the coaching staff.
At the same time, while the football players were experiencing health problems, Magomed Ozdoev and Wilmar Barrios proved to be great - their place in the starting lineup of Zenit is now undeniable. It is no coincidence that Magomed became the main player in the Russian team. It could be assumed that either Erokhin or Kuzyaev will take a place closer to the attackers, but Semak has not actually used such players lately. Only in one match of the new season did Alexander start at the “ten” position, but then he became ill and remained in Dziub's reserve.
Universal Kuzyaev is able to play midfield on both flanks, for example, in the current season he came out for three times to replace it on the left edge. But there unexpectedly entrenched experiencing a "second youth" Yuri Zhirkov. The veteran’s goal against Spartak’s goal and the general utility level indicate that he’s not going to give way to young partners.
On the other hand, in the fall, Zenit will have to break into three fronts, given the Cup of Russia, and Semak will surely find an opportunity to provide game practice for everyone, and Zhirkov himself will have a chance to rest, because at his age it is not so easy to play several matches a week.
But the team also has a somewhat forgotten Oleg Shatov, who spent the last couple of seasons on fighting injuries. Although for only a few years he was one of the leaders not only of Zenit, but also of the national team. Now a native of Yekaterinburg will try to regain his place at the base, especially since he is also able to play on both flanks.
The Return of Dryussi
But for Alexei Sutormin, the season will turn out to be difficult. The footballer moved to Zenit hoping to get a regular place at the base, but he will have to compete with Malcolm. While the Brazilian is injured, Alexey is playing, but with the return of the ex-midfielder of Barcelona to the ranks, the prospects of the failed Rubin player become very vague.
Malcolm was invited to the team as a star, and fans simply won’t understand if the Brazilian acquired for € 40 million will remain on the bench. On the other hand, Sutormin himself does not yet shine. In addition, Robert Mack remained in the team, whose dagger passes and speed can be useful to Semak in the Champions League.
On the left, Sebastian Driussi is indispensable. His role in the team by some fans is unfairly belittled, but after an Argentine injury Zenit immediately made two misfires in the RPL, losing five points. But once Sebastian returned to duty, the wards of Semak three times upset the Tula Arsenal in the match of the 9th round of the Russian championship.
Azmuna is waiting for a largely decisive season. In the spring, he scored in almost every match, and now he has to confirm his level, especially in the Champions League, where there is an opportunity to establish itself in front of large European clubs. So far, the Iranian is not very successful. In nine matches, he scored only two goals, and also failed to realize a penalty in the last blue-white-blue match at the moment. Perhaps Serdar saves strength just for the European competition.