ST. PETERSBURG, October 2 (RIA Novosti)
A confidence-sapped Zenit St. Petersburg side must use Wednesday’s Champions League match against AC Milan to retrieve their swagger, coach Luciano Spalletti said Tuesday.
The Russian champions have just one win in their last six league matches, and off-the-field problems involving midfield lynchpin Igor Denisov continue to hound the club.
Zenit need to kickstart their Champions League campaign after a 3-0 defeat to Spanish side Malaga last month, and welcome a Milan side also in the doldrums.
"If we can't get a get a result in the games following Malaga, this is going to seriously complicate things," Spalletti said. "For us the most important thing is for the players to get their self-confidence back," he added.
"After that, everything else will fall into place. All efforts are directed at returning the team's class to its previous level."
Bouncing back is a hallmark of the truly great sides, Spalletti said.
"The history of the big teams is full of victories, but it is characterized by how they react in tough times."
Zenit are suffering from low morale as infighting continues to blight the Gazprom-backed club.
The arrival of big-money signings Hulk and Axel Witsel caused consternation with some players, who objected to their large salaries.
Denisov, the captain of the national team, was dropped to the reserves after allegedly issuing a pay rise ultimatum. Striker Alexander Kerzhakov was also thrown out of the first team but returned Saturday for the 1-1 draw with Lokomotiv Moscow.
Milan, meanwhile, languish in 11th place after six Serie A games, and drew 1-1 with Belgian minnows Anderlecht in their Champions League opener.
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