Zenit St Petersburg will never forget the 2019-20 season, which began as its first-ever in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, bringing the best teams in Europe to the city and its fans, but ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Zenit will be back for another try in 2020-21, and here is a quintet of key games fans of the club can look forward to.
Round 2: Barcelona comes to town
As visiting FC Barcelona heads into a new era under Sarunas Jasikevicius, one man, in particular, will be keen to start his team's home campaign with a headline victory: Zenit coach Xavi Pascual, who spent eight successful years in charge of Barcelona between 2008 and 2016. Pascual won the EuroLeague and four Spanish titles with Barca and coached Jasikevicius for one of those seasons. Now the former Blaugrana coach will aim to get one over the new man in charge in his team's home opener.
Round 7: A streak to preserve
One of Zenit's biggest achievements during last season's debut EuroLeague campaign was claiming home and away victories over traditional European heavyweight Olympiacos, including its highest point tally of the season in a 91-87 home victory. In Round 7, the Russian team will have the chance to maintain its 100% record over the visiting Reds and the game could be a good barometer for Zenit's expectations for the season.
Round 11: Zalgiris vs Zenit
It will be a special game for Kevin Pangos, who missed the 2019-20 EuroLeague season due to injury. Pangos was a key piece of the history-making Zalgiris squads in his two seasons with the club, including a berth at the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four in 2018. Pangos was named to the 2017-18 All-EuroLeague Second Team after he averaged 12.7 points and 5.9 assists in 36 games. Expect a warm ovation when he is introduced at Zalgirio Arena.
Fenerbahce vs Zenit
One of the most famous wins in Zenit's European basketball history came in Round 15 last season when Andrew Albicy's game-winning three-pointer in the dying seconds earned a shock 81-84 victory at Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul. The Russian team will return to the scene of that triumph in February, aiming to head into the domestic cup break by proving that its win in Istanbul last season was no fluke.
Zenit vs CSKA Moscow
They might be separated by more than 600 kilometers, but this late-season clash between representatives of Russia's two biggest cities will still have a special derby feel. Coming late in the season, there could be major prizes to play for, and Zenit will have the incentive of claiming a famous victory regardless of its position in the standings. CSKA won both meetings between the teams last season, so a first-ever EuroLeague win over the Reds will be the focus for Xavi Pascual and his players.