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Football | Europe

Igor Denisov © Action Images

Denisov, Danny available for Zenit



Zenit St Petersburg look likely to field a strengthened line-up this weekend as they push to catch up with league leaders CSKA, with the return of national team captain Igor Denisov and Portugal star Miguel Danny.

Zenit, currently third, take on struggling Rostov while CSKA, boosted by the possible return of playmaker Alan Dzagoev, and second-place Anzhi Machachkala have much tougher challenges at Lokomotiv Moscow and Terek Grozny respectively.

The star-studded Saint Petersburg outfit are climbing back up the table after making a disappointing start to the season while riven by an internal rebellion led by Denisov.

The rebel midfielder, who missed five domestic league matches, three Champions League encounters and a national cup clash, has finally settled his conflict with the club over the salary paid to recently-signed forward Hulk.

The 28-year-old begged his club for forgiveness, after he walked out for over a month in protest of the wages paid to Hulk and Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel.

"I was wrong in this situation. I was driven by my emotions, and in the end failed to help my teammates," he said in a statement issued by the club on Thursday.

Zenit can also boast the return of their Portuguese midfielder Danny, who has spent almost eight months on the sidelines with a string of injuries since February.

"I hope Igor (Denisov) will make us stronger," said Zenit manager Luciano Spalletti. "I talked to him and he told me that he's 100 percent ready and I can count on him in the upcoming matches.

"I watched closely his work in the youth team and I have no doubts that his return will help us a great deal."

Brazilian forward Hulk has also won the right to play against Rostov after serving a one-match suspension in the previous match at Vladikavkaz after he collected four yellow cards.

CSKA meanwhile have a chance to field attacking midfielder Dzagoev after the Russian ruling body disciplinary panel lifted his ban for a foul on Dynamo's Australian right-back Luke Wilkshire.

Dzagoev, 22, who has served three of the original five-match ban, was given the green light to play in the Moscow derby. But he may yet miss the encounter after suffering a shin injury in the mid-week national cup match with Tyumen.

Big-spenders Anzhi Makhachkala, boasting the world's highest-paid footballer Samuel Eto'o, are just two points behind CSKA and will try to close the gap with a win in a Caucasus derby with their fourth-placed neighbours Terek Grozny.

Earlier this week, 10-man Anzhi grabbed a morale-boosting Russian cup victory over Samara, with a winner from 18-year-old Serder Serderov.

Anzhi's Dutch manager Guus Hiddink said he was delighted with his team's win but said his players made too many errors that would be punished in the league and in European ties.

"It was a very necessary win but we made too many own mistakes, which were absolutely inadmissible," he said. "We should analyse them and never repeat in the future."

Fixtures:

Friday:

Zenit St Petersburg v Rostov

Saturday:

Amkar Perm v Kuban Krasnodar
Samara v Spartak Moscow
Saransk v Rubin Kazan

Sunday:

CSKA Moscow v Lokomotiv Moscow
Anzhi Makhachkala v Terek Grozny
FC Krasnodar v Dynamo Moscow

Monday:

Alania Vladikavkaz v Volga Nizhny Novgorod

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