Spalletti vows to stay on at struggling Zenit
Zenit St Petersburg coach Luciano Spalletti has vowed to stay on despite mounting pressure on him to resign following a streak of poor results in recent matches.
“I want to make it absolutely clear – I will not quit even if we lose to Basel,” he told reporters yesterday ahead of today’s Europa League last-16, second-leg tie against the Swiss side at St Petersburg’s Petrovsky stadium.
The Russian champions must overturn a two-goal deficit after losing 2-0 in the first leg last week.
It was Zenit’s third consecutive defeat in all competitions and pundits have led calls for the Italian’s exit.
“I think Spalletti has exhausted himself at Zenit. You can see it by just looking at him – it seems he just doesn’t have the fire anymore,” former Zenit and Russia striker Alexander Panov was quoted as saying.
Zenit lost to Liverpool 3-1 in last month’s Europa League last-32 tie but scraped through to the next round on the away goals rule having won the first leg 2-0 at home a week earlier.
They were soundly beaten by Basel 2-0 in the last 16, first-leg encounter last week before going down to Rubin Kazan 1-0 at the weekend when the Russian league season resumed after a three-month winter break.
“Of course, if you don’t get results your role as a coach is in doubt.
“It’s a normal thing in football,” said Spalletti, who has led Zenit to back-to-back Russian league titles in the last two years.
The Kazan defeat saw Zenit drop eight points behind leaders CSKA Moscow with 10 games left.
“I’m not a quitter, I know that we can change this situation around,” Spalletti said.
Media reports have linked fellow Italian Roberto Mancini with the job at big spenders Zenit, bankrolled by Russian energy giant Gazprom, saying the Russians recently had a private meeting with the Manchester City manager.
Last 16 – second legs
R. Kazan vs Levante (0-0) - 18.00
Zenit SP vs FC Basel (0-2) - 18.00
Inter vs Tottenham (0-3) - 19.00
Bordeaux vs Benfica (0-1) - 21.05
Chelsea vs S. Bucharest (0-1) - 21.05
Fenerbahce vs V. Plzen (1-0) - 21.05
Lazio vs Stuttgart (2-0) - 21.05
Newcastle vs Anzhi (0-0) - 21.05