13 February, 2013 - 14:32

Europa League last-32 round preview: Zenit vs Liverpool, Tottenham vs Lyon

Europa League last-32 round preview: Zenit vs Liverpool, Tottenham vs Lyon

The winter break has favorably influenced Zenit’s dressing-room atmosphere with tensions being apparently reduced and conflicts resolved. Spaletti claims he has been delighted with his players’ progress shown at the training sessions and during the friendlies.

Zenit St. Petersburg vs Liverpool

Zenit have progressed for the Europe League after finishing third in their Champions’ League group. This can be considered a decent achievement taking account fairly poor start of their Champions’ League campaign, despite the high expectations of their fans and Russian media. Currently Zenit are lying in the third spot of Russian Premier League.

Zenit have few injury problems with Zyryanov picking up hamstring injury and Criscito being on the sidelines for two more weeks with a long-term injury. Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Tomáš Hubočan are set to take part in the game against Liverpool despite suffering minor injuries at the training sessions.

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Liverpool have qualified to the last-32 round from the first spot on the goals difference, after finishing equal on points with Anzhi and Young Boys. Liverpool have suffered a shocking 2-0 Premier League Matchday 26 defeat against WBA at the Anfield which has certainly had a negative impact on team’s morale. The defeat saw them slipping to the ninth place in the Premier League table.

Liverpool will miss their new signing Daniel Sturridge who is ineligible to take part in the fixture due to being cup-tied. Raheem Sterling has overcome his illness and is set to be fully recovered for the game. Martin Kelly is on team’s long-term injury list.

Footballtop.com prediction: Zenit St. Petersburg 1-2 Liverpool

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Tottenham Hotspur vs Olympique Lyon

This would be undoubtedly close and tense encounter with both teams preferring quick and direct style of play. Magical Gareth Bale, who relishes big matches, will certainly benefit from quick tempo and probably we should wait for another masterpiece goal from him we got used to in Premier League.

The Spurs have finished the second in Group J, behind Lazio. The North London club secured the victory in its last two Premier League games against WBA and Newcastle and is finding itself in the fourth Champions’ League spot, four points ahead of its closest rivals Arsenal and one point behind third-placed Chelsea. Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas is looking to reshuffle the side that beat Newcastle 2-1 on Sunday. Jan Vertonghen and Benoit Assou-Ekotto are likely to feature in the starting line-up against the French side. Emanuel Adebayor is poised to be starting up front. The Spurs’ are experiencing apparent firepower crisis with Ade being the only fit striker.

Defoe will stay out of contention for at least two weeks with an ankle injury, while Younes Kaboul remains several weeks away from returning due to damaged knee. Sandro is a long-term absentee, being sidelined until the end of the season.

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Lyon have progressed to the last-32 in an impressive fashion, taking 16 points out of possible 18 in their Europe League Group I. Currently Lyon are second in Ligue 1, 6 points behind the leaders PSG. Their poor domestic form gives rise to optimism for the Spurs’ fans as they have lost their last home game against Lille 3-1 and suffered away defeat from Ajaccio 3-1.

Remi Garde is expected to make some changes to the side that was hammered 3-1 by Lille. Yoann Gourcuff could be included in the first XI, although the player has been frustratingly inconsistent of late. Bafetimbi Gomis could be teamed up with Lisandro Lopez up front, who is a potential match-winner, due to his killer instinct and clinical-finishing ability.

Footballtop.com prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Olympique Lyon

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Author: Basil Naumov

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