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Zenit tipped to challenge AC Milan after Hulk swoop

Brazil star Hulk, who made the shock transfer from FC Porto to Zenit St Petersburg on the final day of the summer transfer window (credit: Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images)
Zenit St Petersburg are 21/10 to win their Champions League group following some spectacular transfer deadline day business.

After splashing a reported £63.25m on Brazil striker Hulk and Belgian schemer Axel Witsel, the Russian champions should be well placed to compete with Milan for the prized top spot in Group C, according to bookmaker Ladbrokes.

Mid-winter European nights in St Petersburg seems to be a trip sides detest making as Zenit haven’t lost in either Champions or Europa League action at the Petrovsky Stadium since September 2008; this to the might of Real Madrid, no less.

It’s on their travels where their problems lie. As good as they are at home, Zenit are equally poor away, having failed to win outside Russia in last season’s Champions League campaign, coming unstuck in Lisbon against Witsel’s Benfica.

Luciano Spalleti will envisage two players with such vast continental football experience will help eradicate their travel sickness which, in turn, would go a long way to establishing them as a recognisable force on the European scene.

They will fancy their chances of beating Milan to win Group C in the immediate future, having tied for first place with APOEL in last season’s Group G – their shock 2-1 loss in Nicosia proving their downfall last term.

Milan themselves have started the season with an unexpected 1-0 defeat to newly promoted Sampdoria and it took two late strikes from Giampaolo Pazzini to complete a hat-trick and prevent Bologna earning a credible draw in the process.

Pazzini’s treble may have answered critics in the short term who doubt the quality in Milan’s replacements for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but his 37 goals in the three years prior to this season pale in significance when compared to the mercurial Swede’s 35 in 2011/12 alone.

Also, Milan were held to a draw against Czech minnows, Viktoria Plzen, in last season’s competition after conceding four points to FC Zurich two seasons previously.

This proves that the once all-conquering European force have grown susceptible to upsets and it’ll be interesting to see how they fare in the illustrious Russian winter.

Both Malaga and Anderlecht would have to pull up some serious trees if they were to topple both Milan and Zenit to win Group C, with the Spanish debutants having shipped out key players due to financial crisis, whereas the Belgian club simply lack quality.

This would, therefore, make top-spot in Group C a two-way tussle with Milan definitely not expected to have it all their own way following Hulk’s arrival in St Petersburg.

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Zenit tipped to challenge AC Milan after Hulk swoop

Zenit St Petersburg are 21/10 to win their Champions League group following some spectacular transfer deadline day business.

Read more »