Amazingly enough, Zenit has only made it to European cup play-off rounds twice in its history, and both times (in the 2005/06 and 2007/08 seasons) the Petersburg team secured its place in the play-off round only in December. Furthermore, in the second case, which ended with Zenit winning its first European trophy in May of 2008, the club advanced to the play-off round only thanks to the victory of the English side Everton over the Dutch side AZ, without which we wouldn’t have had our historical triumph in Manchester in the final. This time everything is in the hands of Zenit itself, and the team earned its chance to make it to the play-off round already in the 4th matchday of group play. Zenit has the chance to take advantage of this opportunity, and then the time will come to look cautiously at the European cup spring of 2011, evaluating the strengths of Zenit’s main competitors.
Valery Petrakov, previously the head coach of Tom and FC Moskva:
– It’s hard to say who is the favorite in the current Europa League favorite. Let’s take a look. Liverpool can’t be considered a dangerous opponent right now, because the team is in poor form due to the change in management. I don’t think Dynamo Kiev can be considered one of the main opponents. The team has not shown stable football recently. CSKA is playing very well right now, especially in attack. The team has looked much more dangerous ever since Wagner Love came back. So in my opinion CSKA and Manchester City are the most dangerous opponents right now, although the English side has the greatest names. Juventus and PSV seem to me to be on the same level, and I think Zenit can handle them both.
Andrey Kakchelkis, previously a halfback on the Russian national team:
– Honestly, it’s hard for me to choose the most dangerous and strong opponent. All of the European teams are strong in their own way. It’s very hard to predict the level of any one team from the Europa League, because all European clubs have their own traditions. So I think it will be easier for Zenit to play against CSKA or Dynamo Kiev. The other teams which are considered tournament favorites have their own style of play, just like any famous team. Any one of them can show football on the highest level.
Igor Kolyvanov, previously a striker for the Russian national team:
– Zenit played at a very high level in all three of its first Europa League matches. It was obvious that Luciano Spalletti’s players won with room to spare. Who will be Zenit’s toughest opponent if nothing unexpected happens? I would say that CSKA Moscow is a main competitor. I would like to see Zenit and CSKA meet in the final.