Zenit star ‘surprised’ by Celtic’s performance at Parkhead

Zenit St Petersburg's Branislav Ivanovic missed the first leg with an eye injury. Picture: SNS
Zenit St Petersburg's Branislav Ivanovic missed the first leg with an eye injury. Picture: SNS
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Zenit St Petersburg grandee Branislav Ivanovic has confessed he was “surprised” by the levels Celtic produced on and off the field at home to Roberto Mancini’s men on Thursday.

But the 33-year-old, pictured, intimated he would be equally surprised if his team were not a transformed opponents for Brendan Rodgers side when the Scottish champions attempt to defend their 1-0 lead in the return leg of the last 32 tie at the Krestovsky Stadium in four days time.

Serbian international Ivanovic, who made more than 250 appearances for Chelsea over nine years after moving to London in 2008, is expected to be fit for Thursday’s decider after missing the first leg with an eye injury.

“I hope to have permission from the doctor to start the game next week and am very much looking forward to it,” said the centre-back, who believes Zenit were hampered by the fact they had been on a winter shut-down for two months before the other night.

“The first leg was a very interesting game and I thought the atmosphere at Celtic Park was amazing. Celtic were great, I was surprised by them. They surprised me with a lot of things. I knew the supporters would be behind them but they were a very dangerous team.

“They had really good ideas on the pitch and played very well. They were compact, aggressive, a very good team. I thought they were strong and are probably favourites.

“Of course, they have more chance of going through now after winning 1-0 at home than they did before the game.

“We will have to change a lot of things to be on top of the game next week in Russia but for sure the tie is not over yet. There was only one goal in it in Glasgow.

“We have one more week to work and prepare for the next game. It will be in our stadium, in front of our fans, so we’ll be doing everything to try and go through.

“Zenit will probably be a different team next week in St Petersburg. At home, we’ll be more confident and we’ll have had an extra week’s training.”