by Ian S. Palmer
Benfica of Portugal will be on the road at Zenit St. Petersburg of Russia this Wednesday, March 9 for the second leg of their round-of-16 European Champions League showdown. The Portuguese side were 1-0 winners at home in Lisbon on February 16 and hope to seal the deal in Russia. Benfica is attempting to reach the quarter-final stage for the first time in the past four years. Each team has some injuries and suspensions to deal with as Criscito and Javi García are suspended for Zenit while Andre Almeida and Jardel are banned for Benfica. In addition, Fayzulin, Malafeev and Smolinikov are questionable for the home team while Luisao, Rebocho, Fejsa and Lisandro Lopez are in the same boat for Benfica.
- Pinnacle currently lists Zenit as the favorites to win the 90-minute game at +103 with Benfica +305 and a draw at +257
Zenit St. Petersburg vs Benfica – Head to Head:
- These teams met in the group stage in 2014/15 with Zenit winning 2-0 in Lisbon after Benfica’s goaltender Artur was sent off the pitch with a red card after 18 minutes. Zenit then won their home fixture 1-0 in St. Petersburg. The clubs also met in the round of 16 stage back in 2011/12 with Benfica wining 4-3 on aggregate. They were 2-0 winners in Lisbon and 3-2 losers in Russia. Benfica’s loss to Zenit last year was their first at home in their past 14 European matches. Benfica has six wins, four draws and five losses overall against Russian teams.
Benfica finished second place in the group stage in Group C behind Atletico Madrid of Spain. They had three wins, a draw and two losses with 10 goals scored and eight allowed. Galatasaray finished third in their group with FC Astana finishing fourth and last. Zenit won Group H with five victories and a defeat with 13 goals for and six against. They competed in a group against Gent, Valencia, and Olympique Lyonnais. If Zenit wins this game it will go to extra time. A draw or win for Benfica will see them advance. A one-goal win for Zenit isn’t good enough if Benfica scores at least one goal. However, a win by two goals or more will put them through to the next round.
Benfica will be playing in the knockout round of the tournament for just the second time in their past eight appearances. Zenit enter the round of 16 with only one loss so far. They were hoping to become the sixth team in history to win all six of their group stage outings. Zenit is now trying to reach the quarterfinal stage for the first time ever. They’ve been successful in Portugal lately with a win in each of their past three trips there, including a 2-0 triumph over Benfica. Zenit has never lost at home to a Portuguese side with five wins and two draws.
So far at home in the Champions League Zenit has defeated Gent 2-1, Olympique Lyonnais 3-1 and Valencia CF 2-0. Zenit has lost eight times and won four in 12 European series after losing the first match of the tie and the club has never been involved in a shootout in Europe. Benfica has just one win in their history in Russia in seven games with four losses and a pair of draws. The Portuguese side has one win and two losses in European shootouts and has been victorious in 15 of their past 16 outings in all competitions.
Benfica climbed to the top of the Portuguese league on Saturday after beating their nearest rivals Sporting Lisbon 1-0 on the road. The Russian league recently took its annual winter break and Zenit held training camps in Portugal and Qatar during their time off. However, they did play several friendly matches during that time. They enter this game after drawing away 0-0 at Krasnodar on Saturday and are sitting in fifth place in the Russian league.
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