Just a couple of days after losing at home to West Brom Liverpool now face an arduous journey east to take on Zenit St Petersburg in Russia. While the Russian side have had their difficulties in recent months the team have reportedly put their rifts and differences behind them during a training camp in Dubai this winter. They haven’t played since December which may give hope to wearily jetlagged Liverpool players but who should they be keeping an eye on in ‘The Venice of the North’.
Let’s temper the hype around the Brazilian first of all as right now the former Porto man is not looking quite as incredible as his name would suggest. In fact his time at Zenit has so far been something of a struggle to win over not only the fans but his own team-mates and in January he handed in a transfer request.
He has struggled to perform in the league where he has only scored twice in nine games and more alarmingly for a man playing out wide he has provided a grand total of zero assists.
But regardless of these facts he still remains a talented individual and if he decides to turn up Liverpool will have real trouble dealing with him.
The troublesome rogue in the heart of Zenit’s midfield and the man who helps motivate the side when things are not going their way his influence can be extremely potent to the team. While this has not been his most barnstorming of seasons his box-to-box play will still prove a difficult freight train to stop if his mind is in the right place.
Lambast him all you like for at the Euro’s last summer he gave us many a chuckle with some of his wayward finishing and he certainly is one of those strikers.
What he does give you however is hard work for every minute he is on the pitch. He will try his best to cover every blade of grass giving Liverpool real trouble if they try to play the ball around the backline and he is also the Russian sides top-scorer this season with 11 goals from 16 games.
If anybody is the pendulum that makes the Zenit side tick it is the midfield dynamo Shirokov. An ever present in the side despite the influx of recent foreign acquisitions the 31-year-old has been one of the shining lights in their season so far.
If Liverpool are going to control the game they will have to stop this man first.
Originally I would have gone with Domenico Criscito the Italian left-back but he is struggling with a calf strain so may not be available for Luciano Spalletti so instead I will sing the praises of the under-rated and under-used Bystrov.
The Russian international has been used sparingly in Europe this season yet is the clubs assist leader and one of their regulars in the league campaign. His tricky wing-play may be dangerous late on.
Who do you think will pose Liverpool’s biggest threat in Russia?
image: © nicksarebi