SPECIAL: Zenit & Milan In Crisis Before Wednesday’s Champions League Showdown


Analyzing both giants difficult time and the problems they are facing with…

Wednesday evening marks Zenit’s first home game in the Champions League group stage, and the face-off with Italian side Milan could not come at a worse time. Languishing in seventh place in the Russian League after confidently leading the table only a few weeks before, Zenit has now been hit by a scandal that threatens to tear the team in two.

The St. Petersburg club signed striker Hulk and midfielder Axel Witsel in an €80 million double swoop in early September and only a month later these super transfers have led to inner-team rivalry, as key team members protest against two new players getting paid more than them.

The leader of the conflict, Russian national team captain and midfielder Igor Denisov, initiated what now threatens to become a full-blown mutiny against club and management in his refusal to play in a league match against Krylya Sovietov Samara on 22 September,  Denisov had issued an ultimatum, demanding talks over an improved contract and salary before continuing to play for the club. Instead, he got rejected and demoted.

“Are they [Hulk and Witsel] so much better than our team’s current leaders that they deserve to get three times more [money]? Zenit is composed of excellent players, who have won no less than the newcomers. We deserve more respect.”

Other national team members, including Malafeev, Bystrov and Kerzhakov have reportedly expressed support for Denisov to the club. Kerzhakov was also demoted to the youth team after the Sept. 22 game for “improper behavior,” having expressed support of the idea.

On the other side there are Milan, who don’t have salary problems with players. Instead, the loss of form is based on tactical nature. Two victories in 5 previous matches; numerous of physical and psychical problems that star players seem to be having; lost confidence (probably somewhere in the air) and a bunch of fitness and injury problems.

Just when the good times started to smile away, Milan failed the test once again. However, hopefully all of this will go away at 18:00 CET. Either Milan, either Zenit have to take advantage of rival’s struggle and both could use some fresh air for breathing with no criticism surrounding it.

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