DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Conor O'Brien and Nordsjaelland need a miracle in St. Petersburg if they hope to overturn their one-goal deficit and reach the final playoff round of Champions League qualification.
Zenit St. Petersburg - FC Nordsjaelland (agg. 1-0)
Nordsjaelland did well to limit their Russian counterparts in Denmark last week, however an early second-half goal by Alexander Kerzhakov put them in a tough position for Wednesday's second leg.
O'Brien did not play in that game, however did make the trip to Russia's northwestern corner as the team tries to pull off an improbable result.
The Wild Tigers have been unable to turn around their poor fortunes in the new season, losing 2-1 over the weekend to Aarhus to remain winless in all competitions since beginning the new term in late-July.
They are facing a Zenit team that looks to be hitting their stride after a short burp in the early weeks of the season. The Russians defeated league rivals Volga Nizhny Novgorod over the weekend by a 3-1 scoreline, a particularly impressive feat considering they netted the winner and insurance goal with ten men on the field after Hulk was sent off.
The Brazilian striker will, however, still be available for Wednesday's game, which will be particularly important for the hosts as they will be without last week's hero Kerzhakov due to a toe injury.
Furthermore, backup striker Luka Djordjevic is unavailable for the season after moving to Dutch team Twente on loan, while defender Tomas Hubocan is questionable after missing the weekend's game with an injury.
Keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev and defender Domenico Criscito are also both out for the hosts through injury.
Nordsjaelland are not reporting any missing players.
Ben Spencer is in Molde's list of available players for their Wednesday-evening match in Legia Warsaw, but is unlikely to take the field. The head into the return leg even 1-1 on aggregate, and must, at minimum, score in Poland in order to reach the final playoff round.