Dundalk vs Zenit Saint Petersburg Europa League Preview

Dundalk vs Zenit Saint Petersburg Europa League Preview

Dundalk vs Zenit Saint Petersburg will be the first meeting between the two sides. Dundalk in particular has defied expectations by taking four points from their first two Europa League matches.

Dundalk have provided the feel good story of this season’s UEFA competitions, as they eliminated BATE Borisov in the third round of the UEFA Champions League, before being eliminated in the Champions League playoffs by Legia Warsaw.

But their victory against BATE guaranteed the Irish champions a place in the Europa League group stage where they drew AZ Alkmaar 1-1, and defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 1-0, which already marks the best ever performance by an Irish club in the Europa League—the only other Irish side to reach this stage of the competition had been Shamrock Rovers, who lost all six group stage matches.

In fact Shamrock Rovers were also the last side that faced a Russian squad, as they were defeated 3-0 and 4-1 in the 2011-12 Europa League group stage.

There is no doubt that in Zenit Dundalk face their sternest test in the competition so far. Futbolgrad predicted that Zenit are favourites to win Group D, and indeed anything less than a quarterfinal finish would be a disappointment for the Saint Petersburg based club.

Zenit are Russia’s richest club, and alongside CSKA Moscow, is one of the country’s most successful teams in the last ten years. Indeed failure to qualify for the Champions League this season has meant a bit of a shakeup in the squad, as the club brought in former Shakhtar Donetsk coach Mircea Lucescu, and also sold Hulk to China.

To replace Hulk, Lucescu bought the highly talented Brazilian Giuliano, who has been the best player of the squad, both in the domestic Russian Football Premier League but also in the UEFA Europa League. His performance against Maccabi Tel Aviv on matchday one in particular stood out, as he was the main engineer of Zenit’s 4-3 comeback victory after being down 3-0 in Israel.

The Brazilian is currently second in the Russian Football Premier League goal-scoring race behind Krasnodar striker Fedor Smolov. In the Europa League, Giuliano is second in goals scored behind Aleksandr Kokorin, who has scored three times in the first two matches in Europe.

Kokorin has featured as a right-winger on a regular basis in recent weeks under Lucescu, and it appears that the talented Russian attacker has finally found his stride under the Romanian coach.

Indeed Lucescu seems to have finally gotten his team in tune, as Zenit are currently second in the RFPL on even points with Spartak Moscow—the RFPL uses the amount of wins as the first tie breaker, and Spartak have recorded seven wins as opposed to Zenit’s six. Zenit, alongside Spartak and CSKA Moscow, will once again be the most serious title challenger in the RFPL.

The Russians are one of the favourites when it comes to the title in Europa League this season—the club won the predecessor of the Europa League, the UEFA Cup, in 2008—as the club has a strong enough squad to play with the best teams in the competitions. For Dundalk this means that they are going to be the major outsider on Thursday, as Zenit will most likely record their third victory in a row in Ireland.

Possible Line-ups


Formation: 4-2-3-1

Sava – Massey, Boyle, Gartland, Keane – O’Donnell, Finn – Horgan, McEleney, Mountney – McMillan

Manager: Stephen Kenney

Zenit Saint Petersburg:

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Lodygin – Criscito Lombaerts, Neto, Anyukov – Witsel, Garcia – Shatov, Giuliano, Kokorin – Dzyuba

Manager: Mircea Lucescu

By Manuel Veth –