Luciano Spalletti: “We don’t underestimate anybody”

The blue-white-sky blues` coach answered questions about his player rotation, Hajduk`s qualities, and his team`s mood in the Poljud press center before Thursdays match.

– Can we say that you left a lot of players in St. Petersburg because it was so easy for Zenit to beat Hajduk at home two weeks ago?

– There are no simple matches in football. And the match we played against Hajduk at home wasn`t easy either. We haven`t advanced from our group yet, and haven`t secured our place in the next round of the Europa League. We have a very good team, as Križanac correctly pointed out. We have very important matches coming up, we have a lot of matches in two different tournaments in a short time. And I decided to leave five players at home because we arrive in St. Petersburg at 6 a.m., and we`ll have to leave the next day for our Russian Premier League match in Novosibirsk.

– Why did you choose these players in particular to stay at home?

– Because they played more than the other players recently, and they`re getting tired. The players whom I brought here earned the right to play as much as the rest of the team.

– You probably won`t tell us what Hajduk`s problems are. But maybe you`ll tell us what the team`s weaknesses are?

– I don`t think we should based on the last match with Hajduk. A new coach always has new ideas, and the change in coach at Hajduk will probably change the team as well. On their home turf, here in Split, where there`s a special atmosphere, the team will be different. The players take the energy from the crowd, and that makes them play harder.

– Obviously the team will be trying to win. But hand on your heart, will you be satisfied with a tie tomorrow?

– I`ll be satisfied if my team plays in the way I ask them to play. But, obviously the result is always the key to any match. In order to reach our goal, we have to have the right mentality, the right train of thought, which allows us to be a team, to act together on the field. One episode, on moment in the match may decide who wins. If we don`t play as a team, then that episode won`t bring us the result we need.

– Danny and Kerzhakov stayed home in Petersburg. How ready is Kanunnikov to play starting from the beginning?

– Kanunnikov is a young player with good prospects, with the same strong prospects as Ionov has. We also took Rosina, Huszti, and Bukharov, who also went a long time without playing. I think there will be matches where I use Kanunnikov. But I have to think most of all about the team as a whole, about how to achieve results.

– Zenit has two main tasks right now: to win the Russian Premier League and to advance to the spring season in the Europa League. Which of these tasks is easier?

– It won`t be easy for us in either case. Considering how many points we`ve got in the Europa League, this competition might seem easier. It might seem that way, I repeat. But there are two other teams in our group who can still theoretically get ten points.