MOSCOW, September 12 (RIA Novosti)
New signings Hulk and Axel Witsel may make their Zenit St. Petersburg debuts against Terek Grozny in the Russian league on Friday, coach Luciano Spalletti said Wednesday.
The attacking duo cost the Gazprom-backed side €40 million each - Hulk from Porto and Witsel from rivals Benfica - in Europe's boldest transfer raid of the summer.
Asked if Hulk might figure Friday against Terek, surprise joint leaders in the Russian Premier League, Spalletti answered that "Hulk will be preparing for the game."
"Tomorrow all the players who weren’t present at the training today will be with the team," the Italian coach said in comments carried by Zenit's website.
Witsel took part in his first training session at the Petrovsky Stadium on Wednesday, a light run after playing the whole match for Belgium in Tuesday’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw against Croatia.
Spalletti praised Witsel’s versatility.
“Witsel, like Hulk, is a very good player. … Speaking of their roles on the pitch, we acquired players for the positions that, in our opinion, needed strengthening. Witsel may play anywhere on the pitch.”
Meanwhile, Portugal midfielder Danny, who ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in February, may also return to action on Friday.
“Danny is in good shape, he has recovered, so I will not shut anything out. Of course, it will be a certain risk for him, but if the game allows it, everything is possible,” Spalletti said.
Reigning champions Zenit and Terek, formerly coached by Ruud Gullit, have 16 points from seven matches.
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The British experience can be instructive for Russia. London retains its British Commonwealth if it wants to use this as a foundation for integration in the future. That’s a valuable lesson for Russian experts who are calling for an end to “ineffective” associations like the CIS, the Russian World and others.