Udinese aim to prolong Zenit’s Italian anguish

Udinese can take heart from Zenit St Petersburg’s poor record against Serie A opposition as the Zebrette travel to Russia for their UEFA Cup Round of 16 second leg holding a two-goal lead and seeking a place in Friday’s draw.

A late strike by Fabio Quagliarella and a penalty from Antonio Di Natale turned the tie in Udinese’s favour last week, just as it seemed Italy’s remaining European representatives would have to settle for a goalless draw at Stadio Friuli. Moreover, the result continued Zenit’s winless run against clubs from the peninsula in continental competition (they have not won in five matches) and left the holders with it all to do if they are to emulate Sevilla’s back-to-back UEFA Cup triumphs.

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Pasquale Marino’s men warmed up for Thursday’s fixture in northern Russia by drawing 1-1 on Sunday with their coach’s former club, Catania, a result which did little to enhance the Friulani’s mid-table position. With the UEFA Cup seemingly Udinese’s only route back into Europe, Marino, who will serve a touchline ban at the Petrovsky Stadium, made seven changes from the team which started the first leg including leaving both Quagliarella and Di Natale on the substitutes bench.

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It took the intervention of the former, though, to salvage Udinese a point on a day when Zenit kicked off their domestic season with a 1-1 draw at Spartak Moscow. The Zebrette will be the second Italian visitors to the stadium this season, which is perched on an island jutting out into the river Neva, following Zenit’s goalless draw with Juventus on Matchday five of the Champions League.

In two home games against Italian sides Zenit have yet to score, although if any tifosi are already casting thoughts towards potential quarter-final opponents, they would be advised to remember the last occasion Udinese were defending a two-goal lead in a two-legged tie. That was back in September when, having won 2-0 at Borussia Dortmund, Udinese contrived to lose the return by the same scoreline and only progressed on penalties. Maurizio Domizzi will miss the match through suspension while Zenit are without Aleksandr Anyukov and Roman Shirokov for the same reason.

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