Luciano Spalletti has dismissed claims that Zenit St Petersburg’s midweek opponents Malaga are going through a crisis.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men head into Wednesday’s fixture already assured of a place in the knockout stages of the competition, but are on a run of just one win from the last six played in all competitions.
“Malaga are not going through a difficult time, a crisis. They are still playing their football and are a very strong team, there will be motivation to win. If Saviola or Santa Cruz plays, they have a great striker too,” commented the Italian.
“They have new players who might be playing and who will be encouraged because they want to prove what sort of players they are.
“The squad allows for Malaga to rotate. The major players who helped the team qualify will be more relaxed. The real threat to us is the substitutes who come into this hungrier.”
Spalletti spent most of his pre-match Press conference referring to the weekend’s abandoned League game between Zenit and Dynamo Moscow.
That match was called off due to crowd violence which saw a reported 53 Zenit fans arrested, as Dynamo’s goalkeeper was struck by a firecracker.
“The psychological state is very simple, we have to win tomorrow. For us, what is decided by the Russian League means nothing, we have to win tomorrow against Malaga because it is a very important game.
“We are not thinking about the decision.”
Fallout from the game indicates that Zenit could be handed a 3-0 defeat as punishment.
“In general, the team is damaged by what happened, and we lost three points without playing on the field. For sure this is influential.
“It is very important to find those responsible. I’ve been coaching for 20 years and never experienced anything like in that game. I was surprised for the decision to abandon the match.
“In the dressing room, though, we are speaking about everything to do with Malaga, we are focused. In the media we are talking about what happened [at the weekend] because it is in the public, it is important, but we are looking at Wednesday’s game.
“We have discussed [the weekend] with the team, but it is over and we are playing our next game, which is now most important.”