Zenit Up Against Resurgent Bayern

BERLIN -- Bayern Munich, with one trophy in the bag and a second almost sewn up, turns its attention to a possible treble when it faces Zenit St. Petersburg in Thursday's UEFA Cup semifinal first leg.

Having won the German Cup on Saturday, and holding a 10-point Bundesliga lead with five games remaining, the 1996 UEFA Cup winner is the favorite to go through to the May 14 final in Manchester against Fiorentina or Rangers.

Russian Champion Zenit, the only team in the final four without a major European title, is struggling at the start of the new domestic season, with one win and seven points from six matches and lying 10th in the league, 11 points behind leader Rubin Kazan.

Bayern, which made winning the treble its aim after failing for the first time in a decade to qualify for the Champions League, will be without its suspended Italian striker Luca Toni for the first leg in Munich's Allianz Arena.

Toni, who has scored eight goals in four games and 35 this season, was booked in the thrilling 3-3 quarterfinal draw at Getafe, where he netted twice in the last five minutes of extra time to put Bayern through on away goals.

"We won the Cup and now we want the league championship and the UEFA Cup for the treble," Toni said after scoring twice in Saturday's 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund. "We've still got two titles to go. I hope by the end of May we'll have all three."

"We can't let up now," Bayern captain Oliver Kahn said. "It's always difficult when you're in several competitions at the same time.

"It might not always look so elegant, but what's important is the result."

One Bayern player who will not look elegant is midfielder Mark van Bommel.

He broke his nose in the German Cup final after colliding with Dortmund's Mladen Petric and refused to comply with doctor's orders for an immediate operation.

"We've reached the critical moment in the season with the UEFA Cup semi-final," van Bommel said.

"I've got to play. Having a crooked nose for a few weeks isn't so bad."

Zenit has played the most games to reach the semifinals, having entered the competition at the second qualifying round. It cruised past Bayer Leverkusen in the quarterfinals, winning 4-1 in Germany before losing the return leg 1-0. It was the first time the club had beaten German opposition.

Zenit will be relying on striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, whose eight goals in the tournament is only bettered by Toni. Defender Aleksandr Anyukov, a Russian international, could miss the game with a broken toe, but center back Anatoliy Timoshchuk is expected to return to coach Dick Advocaat's team after sitting out Saturday's 1-1 draw with Saturn.

"The mass media consider Zenit an outsider in our semifinal, but I do not care," Zenit striker Andrei Arshavin said. "If God is with us, and we play with enthusiasm and spirit, we'll have a chance."