MOSCOW: Reigning champions Zenit St Petersburg still have a chance of winning the league title despite a major setback at the weekend with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Rubin Kazan, manager Luciano Spalletti said Monday.
Zenit are currently third in the Russian Premier League with 38 points from 20 matches, eight points behind the leaders CSKA Moscow after Sunday’s defeat by sixth-placed Rubin.
“Zenit will continue battling for the Russian title as long as there’s a slightest mathematical chance to win the championship,” Spalletti told Zenit’s website.
Backed by the financial might of Russian gas giant Gazprom, Zenit had hoped for great things from this season after the record-breaking signings of Brazilian striker Hulk and Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel.
But the arrival of the highly-paid foreign stars caused a series of scandals at the team, which were knocked out of the Champions League in the early stages, leaving them in the Europa League.
Meanwhile, their domestic league performances have often fallen short of Spalletti’s and the team supporters’ expectations.
In the Europa League, Zenit suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Swiss outfit Basel on Thursday and Spalletti said his players were tired after that clash.
“We had little time for recovery after Europa League match at Basel on Thursday,” said Spalletti. “We played well but failed to convert our chances into a goal after Rubin went into the lead.
“Of course in this situation our faith is not only in our hands and we need to wait for the other title challengers’ mistakes. But we will keep on fighting, hoping they will also lose points to allow us to close the gap,” said Spalletti.
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