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  Monday, March 8, 2021
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Zenit St. Petersburg and Spartak Moscow go into UEFA Cup matches
Zenit St. Petersburg and Spartak Moscow go into UEFA Cup matches on Wednesday knowing that victory in their respective two-legged ties will set up an epic all-Russian encounter.

Newly-crowned Russian champions Zenit face the Spanish club Villarreal CF at home, while Spartak Moscow take on Marseille in France. The second legs are on February 21. The draw for the next round has already taken place, and the winners of these fixtures will face each other in the Round of 16.

Any UEFA Cup clash between two of Russia's greatest clubs would be a first for the country and would be sure to attract massive attention both at home and abroad.

The games come at a traditionally tough time for Russian sides involved in European competition, however. The Russian season, unlike in Western Europe, runs from March to November, and the teams sorely lack match practice.

Victory for both Zenit and Spartak could lift Russia into sixth place in the UEFA club side ratings - if they were to stay in this position until the end of the season the country would be permitted to enter its top three sides, in place of the current top two, into the Champions League.

Zenit were not taking their opponents lightly, however. "Villarreal are in third place in one of the strongest leagues in Europe," Zenit's trainer, Dick Advocaat told local media.

Spartak's trainer, Stanislav Cherchesov, was concerned about his side's readiness to come out of winter hibernation.

"It's easy to say we are ready for the game, but from my experience I know that means nothing until the first match," he told Sport-Express.

Zenit kick off at 8:00 .p.m. (5:00 p.m. GMT), while Spartak's game against Marseille starts at 10.45 p.m. (7.45 p.m. GMT).


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