Russian champions Zenit Saint Petersburg will be looking to cause a shock at Stamford Bridge
Russian champions Zenit Saint Petersburg will be looking to cause a shock at Stamford Bridge

Zenit Saint Petersburg travel to Chelsea tonight with the odds against them.

Sergei Semak’s outfit have lost six of their last seven Champions League matches and face last season’s winners at Stamford Bridge.

No team has ever lost their first European game back on home soil after winning the competition but the 2020-21 Russian Premier League winners will be looking to pull off a shock.

So, who are Zenit’s key men — and do they have what it takes to secure a result in West London?

Sardar Azmoun

Iranian international Sardar Azmoun was a constant threat in the Russian Premier League last season
Iranian international Sardar Azmoun was a constant threat in the Russian Premier League last season

Dubbed the Iranian Messi, Sardar Azmoun has started the Russian domestic season in scintillating fashion by scoring five goals in just seven appearances.

Prolific goalscoring is nothing new to the 26-year-old forward, who kicked off his time in Saint Petersburg with 12 goals in 16 matches across all competitions in 2018-19, before netting 21 times the following year.

A further 19 strikes last season only added to the frontman’s burgeoning reputation, so it is no surprise that he was linked with a move to Tottenham this summer.

Chelsea will need to watch out for Zenit’s in-form marksman.

Artem Dzyuba

Artem Dzyuba is not currently hitting the same heights as strike partner Azmoun, with the veteran attacker yet to find the net for his club this season.

But form is temporary, class is permanent — and there is little doubting the pedigree of Zenit’s towering 6ft 6in targetman.

The former Spartak Moscow star, 33, was top scorer in the Russian Premier League last season, registering 20 goals and chipping in with a further six assists.

He is also Russia’s joint all-time leading goalscorer, having equalled Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s record of 30 international goals at Euro 2020.

Aleksandr Yerokhin

Attacking midfielder Aleksandr Yerokhin contributes plenty of goals for Zenit Saint Petersburg
Attacking midfielder Aleksandr Yerokhin contributes plenty of goals for Zenit Saint Petersburg

Zenit scored twenty goals more than second-top scorers Spartak last season, so it is no surprise that they have plenty of attacking pedigree in midfield.

Standing at 6ft 5in, Aleksandr Yerokhin is a domineering presence in the centre of the park — and he has hit a hot streak in the early stages of this season.

After netting seven times last term, the 31-year-old already has five goals and an assist to his name in 2021-22.

Capable of playing in central midfield, behind the striker or even up front, the Blues should pay close attention to Zenit’s versatile operator.

Douglas Santos

Though primarily a left-back, Douglas Santos is another player who has been utilised in multiple positions by manager Semak — often covering in the centre of defence or at the base of midfield.

The Brazil international is particularly adept at winning back possession before delivering dangerous balls into the box.

Only one player in Russia — Ural's Denys Kulakov (55) — has attempted more crosses than the 27-year-old (52), while he also ranks well for interceptions with 15 to date.

Chelsea’s attackers may have a tougher time than expected against the former Hamburg defender.

Dejan Lovren

Former Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren will be looking to frustrate Chelsea's attack
Former Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren will be looking to frustrate Chelsea's attack

Dejan Lovren’s performances for Liverpool across six seasons at Anfield received mixed reviews but the experienced centre-back is enjoying a new lease of life in Russia.

The 32-year-old excelled in a Croatia shirt at Euro 2020 and has been a mainstay at the heart of Zenit’s backline since he joined them for £10.9million last summer.

His current side only conceded 26 times in 2020-21 — seven fewer than second-best defence Dynamo Moscow — and the 69-cap international made a significant contribution to that record.

Lovren will come up against a few old faces when Zenit face Chelsea tonight, and will be desperate to remind people in England of his credentials when he visits Stamford Bridge.

Tags

Champions LeagueZenit St. PetersburgChelsea

Related Articles

LiveScore logo

LiveScore: Live Sport Updates

Football Scores & Sports News

ls-logo-rounded
Get instant notifications with the LiveScore app
Download now
app-store
google-play