I haven’t updated the blog in a while, so here’s the main points of the last 5 months:
Zenit qualified for the Champions League playoffs with an impressive result of 5 wins in 6 group matches. The only defeat came in the last round when the team had already secured the first place in the group and lost 1-2 away to Gent. The list of Zenit’s matches in the Champions League group stage last fall and the final group table:
16-Sep-2015 Valencia 2 – 3 Zenit
29-Sep-2015 Zenit 2 – 1 Gent
20-Oct-2015 Zenit 3 – 1 Lyon
04-Nov-2015 Lyon 0 – 2 Zenit
24-Nov-2015 Zenit 2 – 0 Valencia
09-Dec-2015 Gent 2 – 1 Zenit
Things didn’t go so well in the domestic league for the reigning champions though. The Petersburgers are currently 5th in the league standings on 30 points (8 wins, 6 draws, 4 defeats), 7 points adrift of leaders CSKA Moscow with 12 matches to go. I don’t believe Zenit has any realistic chances of catching the rivals and winning the title this season.
In the winter transfer window Zenit signed an experienced winger Yuriy Zhirkov (32) from Dynamo Moscow, striker Aleksandr Kokorin (24) also from Dynamo, and Brazilian central midfielder/playmaker Mauricio (27) from Terek. Both Zhirkov and Kokorin are Russian internationals, while the Brazilian has just obtained his Russian passport after having played in Russia for over 5 years, and might also start playing for the Russian national squad in the future, if selected. The importance of Mauricio’s passport for Zenit is that he won’t be counted against the limit on foreigners in the Russian league. I was very impressed by Mauricio’s skills in one of Zenit’s recent preparational matches. Zhirkov also looks like a good acquisition to me: he formerly played for CSKA and Chelsea and has significant Champions League experience.
Zenit’s first match after the winter break will be the Champions League last 16 fixture away at Benfica Lisbon on Tuesday, February 16. The return leg in St.Petersburg will be played on Wednesday, March 9.