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Zenit face daunting task at Borussia Dortmund, as Russian club set for new era under AVB

Mar 19, 2014, 1:15 PM EST

Axel Witsel, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Nuri Sahin AP

On Wednesday Zenit St Petersburg must enter the intimidating atmosphere of the Westfalenstadion and beat Borussia Dortmund, that’s hard enough.

But with a caretaker boss, Sergei Semak, in charge and a 4-2 deficit to overturn, they will have to win by three to clinch victory in regulation.

Even the most optimistic Zenit fan would admit that their chances of advancing to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals, for the first-time in club history, are pretty slim. But Zenit are already building for the future, as they appointed former Tottenham Hotspur boss Andre Villas-Boas as their new manager on a two-year deal on Tuesday and will unveil the 36-year-old Portuguese boss on Thursday following the trip to Dortmund.

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When a new manager arrives, players often get a boost as they realize they are starting on a clean slate and must impress the new man in charge to keep their place in the lineup. Zenit will be hoping AVB’s appointment has that impact, but even if it does, lady luck will also have to shine heavily on the Russian Premier League outfit if they’re going to advance to the final eight of the UCL.

On the flip side, Dortmund must be feeling quite relaxed about everything as Jurgen Klopp’s men tore Zenit apart time and time again in the first leg away in Saint Petersburg last month, but failed to put the game completely out of reach after a gutsy second half fight back from their Russian opponents. For all of Zenit’s poor defending and inability to mark Robert Lewandowski, who scored twice away at the Petrovosky Stadium, Dortmund know they must not underestimate Zenit. After finishing as runner up in last year’s UCL, manager Klopp is keen to see BVB punch above their weight once again after an injury-hit season.

“We have reached our goals by making the knockout stage,” Klopp said. “Anything beyond that is bonus for us but we still want to get the maximum out of this competition.”

Dortmund are without influential midfielders Marco Reus and Sven Bender, as the German international haven’t recovered in time, while Zenit have a full-strength squad to choose from.

Remember, we will have recaps, analysis and reactions from all the UEFA Champions League action right here on ProSoccerTalk.

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