French champions will come to Kazan! Who Zenit will play its next Champions League match against

French champions will come to Kazan! Who Zenit will play its next Champions League match against Photo: Fabienne Ponin (parisfunneuse.com)

Today Zenit will play its second group stage match in the Champions League. Champion of French Paris Volley is its rival. Realnoe Vremya tells how the teams are preparing for this match.

''Traditional'' Russian Cup as training before Champions League

Last week Zenit Volleyball Club has become the owner of the Russian Cup for the sixth time. Having gone through the group stage without any opposition, Kazan players easily won their rivals in the semi-final and final. As a hegemon of Russian volleyball, they lost only one set in these two matches, which was in the decisive match against Lokomotiv. By the way, t he coaching staff almost staged a conflict in their fight at the group stage. The specialist from Novosibirsk fielded his second team against Zenit, which caused the Kazan club's head coach Vladimir Alekno's discontent.

In general, the Russian Cup seems to be losing its attractiveness in terms of both sports results and the attitude of the teams and fans to it. And if not a big desire of less rich clubs is quite clear and can be explained, Zenit – winner of the last three competitions – must warn. The players and coaching staff of the Kazan club admit the current format of the Russian Cup is too long. A one-week competition kills the interest in it.

However, this tournament also has a historical value for Zenit. Dynamo-TTG (Zenit's former name) reached the final of the Cup for the first time in 2004 and immediately won it. Those days was the origin in the history of Tatarstan volleyball, and the victory gave the club the first trophy. Many things have changed since then. Now sponsors have more resources. The modern-age state of Zenit with its constant victories resulted in that even players of the team are not always happy about achievements on the domestic stage. Many experts note this detail and consider Russian competitions as training for Zenit before games in the Champions League for a reason.

Last week Zenit Volleyball Club has become the owner of the Russian Cup for the sixth time. Photo: Roman Kruchinin (zenit-kazan.com)

Nothing has changed in Champions League

In fact, not having lost much power in the match against Turkish Arkas, Zenit started successfully, as usual. Now the team from Turkey could not show due opposition to Kazan players who confidently won 3-0. The next match against French Paris Volley will be the second group stage game. Zenit players are unlikely to have problems with this rival. Generally speaking, the fourth round of the Champions League is not to be hard for Zenit because very German Friedrichshafen seriously renewed its squad and is building a team at the moment.

Meanwhile, Kazan fans will be able to see the Russian Cup, which has been conquered recently, in the next match. The trophy will be exhibited in the hall of Saint Petersburg Volleyball Centre during the Champions League match of Zenit against Paris Volley. By the way, the final match in the Russian Cup against Lokomotive from Novosibirsk has been the 900 th in the history of the club, 103 of which took place in Champions League. So, these pleasant records will be likely to help Zenit players to cope with Frenchmen and be an additional motivation for victory to open a heat towards the 1,000th match.

However, according to information given by the coaching staff, the club has small problems linked with the players' physical preparation. Head coach of the team Vladimir Alekno says the leader of Zenit Cuban León is not in shape. Much turn on his readiness. Moreover, very players complained about the absence of days off and a tight schedule during the Final Six in the Russian Cup. Aschev's recent problems due to a backache are not optimistic.

According to information given by the coaching staff, the club has small problems linked with the players' physical preparation. Photo: Roman Kruchinin (zenit-kazan.com)

Paris Volley – 2016 Champions of France

The 2016 Champions of France are preparing for the next Champions League match with another victory in the domestic championship. On Saturday, they easily coped with tough rivals from Narbonne and maintained their top positions in Pro A. The French don't look like obvious leaders in the domestic championship. This is why this success became more important than the preparation for matches on the European stage.

This summer the French squad has changed almost completely. Such a drastic renewal of the roster can't help but affect a team. And Paris Volley is a good example of it. Despite the presence of good performers, they often make great mistakes and still did not learn to handle difficult ends, though signs of it are already appearing. The defeat of Friedrichshafen in the first leg of the Champions League demonstrates it. Even if they lost in France, they left a pleasant impression of their game.

Anybody of the first team can be considered a leader of the club. For example, Polish player Kamil Baranek and Brazilian attacker Franco Paese did a good job in the match against Germans. In the domestic championship, the head coach frequently changed the squad. This is why other players perform major roles. In the last match before Zenit, Hungarian outside hitter from German Friedrichshafen Roland Gergye who has joined the team in this season was remarkable. Estonian player Ardo Kreek is another interesting volleyball player. He has been playing in the team since 2012. He was the author of the winning point in another European Cup several years ago.

Anybody of the first team can be considered a leader of the club. Photo: Fabienne Ponin (parisfunneuse.com)

Despite being a nine-time champion of the country, the head coach doesn't have great experience. Dorian Rougeyron is a French coach who is famous for his work with teams of lower divisions. He is quite ambitious to solve tasks in order to go through the group stage. Our today's rival's presence or absence of any chances will depend on how much the French coach will be crafty while fighting against the wily old fox from Kazan Vladimir Alekno.

By Zulfat Shafigullin
Sports