Rosenborg vs Zenit Saint Petersburg – Thursday, November 2, 20:05 BT / 21:05 CET – Lerkendal Stadion – Trondheim, Norway
It’s deja vu all over again in European competitions as from this round every team will only be put against an opponent they have already faced until the end of the group stages. This constitutes, to some, the dullest and least interesting part of this competition: for a club like Zenit, an extra round against the likes of FK Vardar and Rosenborg means no considerable challenge. Others, however, choose to remain optimistic and point out that it is at this stage that we begin to learn who is going to the knockout stages and who is going home.
We honestly doubt Zenit is going home from this Europa League anytime soon, especially after the cushion of points Roberto Mancini’s men earned during this three-match weeks. Zenit’s level of play and squad depth have been too much for any rival they have come across in Europe. Sometimes with more, other times with less effort, the Russian club has always prevailed this season despite having to face two previous playoff rounds and a group consisting of three very different rivals. At a continental level and when in good form, Zenit look as unbeatable as they do every year. A win this Thursday would guarantee qualification for the Saint Petersburg side, although dropping points could seriously jeopardise the top of the group, something they want to avoid at all costs. Considering that Real Sociedad are still to play against the Russians with them being their only real threat, winning is critical in Norway.
One would think that playing away from home is always more difficult. This Zenit, however, will be pleased to leave Russia even if it is for a couple of hours given their recent results. Although far from being a ‘crisis state’ as the press call it (with some even asking for Mancini’s head), last Sunday’s unbelievable 0-3 defeat against Lokomotiv Moscow at the Krestovsky was a clear signal of Zenit’s lack of creativity whenever put against an intelligent rival who grants them the ball and wait for a chance to counterattack. Zenit were so bad they even made Jefferson Farfán, a player that has been inconsistent since he arrived in the Moscow, perform like a poor man’s Quincy Promes. Paredes apparently did not play due to a suspension.
Although our expert and lifelong Russian football connoisseur Saul Pope believes and arguments that Zenit are still winning the title because of their squad depth, their investments and when not the inconsistency of their rivals, there are things to be very worried about if they want to win this edition Europa League. The first of those things is to make the team independent from Paredes, who is a key asset yet one that becomes an Achilles heel as soon as he is not featured in the starting eleven. Zenit have a six-point appointment next weekend against Kurban Berdyev’s Rubin Kazan away from home, something that could force Mancini to rest some key players like Aleksandr Kokorin.
Rosenborg, on the other hand, have absolutely nothing to lose. Moreover, playing at home makes them twice more dangerous, for their support will be there. Last time around they succumbed to Rigoni’s overwhelming performance rewarded with a deserved hat trick, scoring the first one only a minute after the game started and the remaining two in the space of seven minutes during the second half. That indeed was too much for Rosenborg to digest. Now with a fresh new start and practically eliminated, the Norwegians could opt for a quiet afternoon or could come out with a knife between their teeth. We will find out in two days’ time.
Rosenborg vs Zenit – Players to look out for:
Emiliano Rigoni #10 – Zenit Saint Petersburg
After some great six months at Independiente de Avellaneda, Rigoni was one of the selected Argentines who departed eastbound headed for Russia as the key addition of Zenit’s ambitious Shakhtar-esque project. Within six months, Rigoni has already earned the fan’s trust and love. With Miguel Danny’s #10 on his back, he carries the weight of the number’s entire legacy with relative ease. The hat-trick against Rosenborg was a clear statement of intent from one of the most promising Argentine prospects around at the moment. More of the same, please.
Nicklas Bendtner #9 – Rosenborg Ballklub
Danish cult-hero Nicklas Bendtner remains our player to watch from the Norwegian side. At home and with plenty of space and confidence, Bendtner is even more dangerous than last time. The Russians already showed flaws last time conceding a goal in the 88th minute. Should the game have been 2-0, it could have made them feel uncomfortable and even at risk of dropping points. Zenit’s young defence will have to keep their eyes wide open if they want to avoid being upset by a man that might not be that skilful or dangerous but that only needs one clear chance to send the ball to the back of the net.
Rosenborg vs Zenit – Match Stats:
- Zenit Saint Petersburg have already beaten Rosenborg three times, scoring 7 and conceding only twice.
- Rosenborg haven’t won in their last 7 group stage European matches
- The last time these two teams met, it was Rosenborg who were eliminated from the competition in the round of 32 during the 2015/16 edition.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Rosenborg vs Zenit – 0-2
Rosenborg vs Zenit– Possible Lineups:
Hansen – Hedenstad; Reginiussen; Skjelvik; Meling – Jensen; Lundemo; Konradsen – De Lanlay; Bendtner; Adegbenro
Coach: Kåre Ingebrigtsen
FC Zenit Saint Petersburg
Lodygin – Smolnikov; Mammana; Mevlja; Criscito – Kranevitter; Paredes; Kuzyaev – Rigoni; Dzyuba; Poloz
Coach: Roberto Mancini
Nicolás Miremont is a born and raised Boca Juniors fan, but his heart has a special place for Manchester United, Zenit Saint Petersburg and Dynamo Kiev. Miremont loves to support the underdogs. Miremont enjoys watching smaller competitions especially those from Eastern Europe, but also his native Argentina. Follow him on Twitter @Miremont_Nico