Dortmund jet to Zenit with injury, form worries
Borussia Dortmund head to Zenit Saint Petersburg for Tuesday's Champions League last 16, first-leg clash on the back of a shock Bundesliga defeat and injury worries.
Last year's Champions League finalists Dortmund slumped to a shock 3-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Hamburg on Saturday and lost defensive midfielder Sven Bender for the next 10 weeks with an inflamed pelvis.
Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp has promised improvements in Saint Petersburg.
"Things will be very different there," said Klopp before Monday's flight to Russia.
Zenit certainly have the squad to trouble Dortmund with the likes of Brazilian striker Hulk and ex-Arsenal attacking midfielder Andrei Arshavin.
"Our team is fit and we are fully focused, a big plus for us is our great fighting spirit," said Zenit's ex-Bayern midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.
Zenit's director of sport Dietmar Beiersdorf was at Hamburg's Imtech Arena to witness Dortmund's debacle.
"Of course, Borussia Dortmund fill the favourite role," said the former Hamburg boss.
"The team has a very good reputation in Russia, it'll be a great challenge for our club and our team."
There is a danger the Russians will be rusty.
Zenit have not played since December 6, but won their final warm-up match on Saturday with a 2-0 friendly victory over Estonia's Narva Trans with Venezuelan new-signing Jose Salomon Rondon scoring both goals.
Zenit "is one hundred percent ready for Borussia Dortmund," insisted their Italian coach Luciano Spalletti, but his side won five of their ten friendlies in Qatar, Israel and Turkey over the winter break.
Nevertheless, Klopp was furious with his team's mentality against a Hamburg side who had lost their last eight matches and admitted they were punished for taking their hosts too lightly.
But Dortmund centre-back Manuel Friedrich has said they will not make the same mistake against Zenit.
"That was a blip," insisted Friedrich.
"If we play like we know we can, then we can beat anyone.
"Everyone has to question his attitude, results like that can happen, it's hard to explain them.
"Our performance and mood for Tuesday's game won't be affected by the result in Hamburg."
Bender's injury does not help Klopp, who is already without centre-back Neven Subotic and winger Jakub Blaszczykowski who both miss the rest of the season with torn knee ligaments.
Dortmund's Germany defensive midfielder Ilkay Gundogan has not played since August after suffering from a back injury and virus.
Germany centre-back Mats Hummels did not train on Sunday and is struggling with an ankle injury.
Likewise, Poland striker Robert Lewandowski missed training with illness, but will fly to Russia.
A section of the Petrovsky stadium, where Zenit's hardcore 'ultra' fans normally congregate, will be closed after sanctions from European football's governing body UEFA.
UEFA fined Zenit 40,000 euros (US$55,000) after their fans displayed a racist banner and threw fireworks amidst crowd trouble at Austria Vienna on December 11, when the Russians lost 4-1.
Zenit qualified for the last 16 despite winning just one of their Group G matches, but Beiersdorf said Dortmund will run out into a volatile atmosphere.
"Borussia can expect a bubbling cauldron," he added.