Roberto Mancini admits that his Russian Premier League table-toppers Zenit St Petersburg need to develop a “backbone” if they are to mount a double assault on the domestic and Europa League titles.
Zenit visit bottom-placed Amkar Perm on Sunday, just days after suffering a 1-0 defeat in their away Europa League play-off clash with Dutch side Utrecht.
“It was not our best match in Utrecht. There are many new players in Zenit’s line-up and the team’s backbone has not yet formed,” said Mancini.
“We are creating a new team and every single match is an important test for us.”
Reigning champions Spartak Moscow tackle city rivals Lokomotiv on Saturday in the 60th derby clash between them in the post-Soviet era.
Spartak lead Lokomotiv with 26 wins against 20 defeats while 13 encounters have ended in draws.
Spartak boss Massimo Carrera has demanded his side bounce back from their 2-1 loss to CSKA last weekend while Lokomotiv coach Yury Semin blamed injuries to his strikers for the 2-0 home loss to Tosno.
“(Jefferson) Farfan is out with illness, while Ari is injured,” said Semin.
“The Lokomotiv bosses know our problems and I expect they will find a new striker soon. We need some fresh blood in attack to stay in the title race.”
Fixtures (all times GMT)
Tosno v SKA Khabarovsk (1630)
Ural Yekaterinburg v CSKA Moscow (1200), Spartak Moscow v Lokomotiv Moscow (1430), Rubin Kazan v Anzhi Makhachkala (1700)
Amkar Perm v Zenit St Petersburg (1200), Dynamo Moscow v Ufa (1430), Rostov v Krasnodar (1700)
Akhmat Grozny v Arsenal Tula (1700)