Former Europa League winners Zenit St Petersburg take on Portuguese side Benfica in an intriguing Champions’ League clash this week.
The Russians navigated their way through a tricky looking group to reach the knockout stages of Europe’s biggest competition as runners up. In doing so, they sent Europa League holders Porto packing and left Shakhtar Donetsk stunned at the bottom of the standings.
With the first leg being played in St Petersburg, this is a game that Zenit will know they really must win if they are to stand any chance of progressing to the quarter finals of the competition.
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On home soil both of these sides can be daunting opponents, with passionate and atmospheric crowds turning out to see them. So it seems quite apparent that home advantage is going to have quite a say in this one.
Luciano Spalletti’side currently find themselves top of the Russian Premier League, six points clear of second placed CSKA Moscow. Benfica also top their domestic league, sitting five points clear of Porto who currently occupy second position.
It all sets up a fascinating encounter.
On the injury front, Zenit will have to make do without defender Domenico Criscito after he fell victim to a severe bout of food poisoning and picked up an intestinal infection. Criscito played every minute of Zenit’s Group G campaign but will miss Wednesday’s match.
They will also have to make do without Portuguese midfielder Danny who has been ruled out with a knee injury and he will be disappointed to miss out on a clash with his former Sporting Lisbon rivals.
Benfica have injuries problems of their own, however, with midfielder Javi Garcia set to miss out on the tie. The 25-year-old Spaniard who is being monitored by Manchester United, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Juventus sustained his injury in training.