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Zenit duo Malcom & Claudinho ‘BANNED’ from Chelsea Champions League clash after Gazprom-backed club recalled them from Brazil duty

Zenit duo Malcom & Claudinho ‘BANNED’ from Chelsea Champions League clash after Gazprom-backed club recalled them from Brazil duty
Zenit St. Petersburg will be without Brazilian stars Malcom and Claudinho for their Champions League clash with Chelsea after the Russian club was reportedly sanctioned by FIFA for ordering the pair home from international duty.

Zenit open their Champions League campaign against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, and would have been hoping to call on their full array of stars for a tough assignment at the reigning title holders.

However, manager Sergey Semak will have to contend with the loss of creative forces Malcom and Claudinho due to FIFA sanctions stemming from Zenit’s decision not to allow the pair to play for Brazil in their three World Cup qualifiers this month.

After initially joining up with Brazil, the duo were ordered to return to Russia rather than fly out to Chile for the World Cup qualifier on September 2.

RT

The Russian champions were said to have belatedly realized that the pair would be at jeopardy of not being able to travel to London for the Chelsea clash, due to the UK’s ‘red list’ of Covid-hit countries.

The list includes Brazil and Chile, as well as a host of other South American nations.

The Brazilian FA – the CBF – later lodged a complaint against the Gazprom-backed Russian giants for their actions.

It was reported on Wednesday in Russian outlet R-Sport, citing a source, that sanctions would be applied which rule Malcom and Claudinho out of action until September 14.

RT

That would mean the pair missing the Russian Premier League clash at home to Akhmat Grozny on Saturday and the trip to the London club owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich on Tuesday.

Zenit are not the only club who will lose players amid a week of international chaos and clashes between clubs and national teams.

Chelsea themselves will be affected after defender Thiago Silva was prevented from joining up with Brazil. Silva will miss the Premier League game with Aston Villa this weekend and the clash with Zenit.

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Elsewhere in England, Liverpool will be unable to use Brazilian stars Roberto Firmino, Fabinho and Alisson because of the sanctions; Manchester City will be without Gabriel Jesus and Ederson; Manchester United will lose Fred; and Leeds will be banned from playing Raphinha.

Adding to the chaos were the bizarre scenes on Sunday when the Brazil vs Argentina match in Sao Paulo was canceled after around five minutes when police and health officials stormed onto the pitch in a bid to deport a set of Argentine stars who had allegedly flouted quarantine rules.

The match was abandoned before Argentina flew home with the four players in question – Emiliano Martinez, Emiliano Buendia, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso – supposedly being formally “deported” from Brazil.  

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Zenit are set to suffer by temporarily losing the services of Claudinho, 24, who was an eye-catching summer transfer arrival from Bragantino for a fee said to be around €15 million.

He joined countryman Malcom, 24, who switched to Zenit from Barcelona in a move worth €40 million in the summer of 2019, in one of Russia’s biggest transfer deals in recent years.

Both players were part of the squad which helped Brazil to Olympic glory this summer in Tokyo – where Malcom scored an extra-time winner in the gold medal match against Spain. 

Despite their domestic dominance – winning three successive Russian Premier League titles – Zenit have struggled in Europe, finishing bottom of their Champions League group last season.

This time, they have been drawn in a challenging Group H alongside Chelsea, Juventus and Malmo of Sweden.    

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