6.50pmSo, we're finally back. Absence certainly makes the heart grow fonder. It's been 115 days since Real Madrid lifted the Champions League title to bookend another memorable season of European football, and now we're back at the Estadio da Luz, the scene of Real's triumph in May, as Benfica and Zenit look to kick off their Group C campaign with a bang and take their first steps on the road to Berlin for the final in 2015.
6.52pmIt may only be the first gameweek, but it's entirely possible that we could get fireworks here by virtue of both teams' red-hot domestic form.
6.55pmThe Portuguese giants come into this one after picking up 10 points from their opening four Primera Liga encounters, and the Eagles warmed up for tonight by demolishing Vitoria de Setubal 5-0 at the weekend, with Talisca scoring a hat-trick.
6.58pmRemember Andre Villas-Boas? No need to feel too sorry for him anymore as the ex-Chelsea and Spurs manager is doing quite well these days it seems, with Zenit top of the Russian Premier League after winning all seven of their opening games, scoring 21 goals to match their 21 points. Impressive, eh? They come into this one on the back of a 3-2 home win over Dynamo Moscow.
7.00pmWe're still waiting on team news from Lisbon to filter through but rest assure we'll have it very soon. Stay tuned ladies and gents.
7.04pmStat! In the meantime, have a stat on me: These sides have met only twice previously in a 4-3 aggregate win for Benfica in the last-16 stage of the Champions League back in 2012. Zenit went down 2-0 here in the second leg. Can they do better this time?
7.08pmRight, the Benfica team has emerged and I can tell you that Jorge Jesus has named an unchanged team from the side that won 5-0 at the weekend. Talisca, who scored three of those five, continues in attacking midfield behind Lima, who spearheads the attack. We're still waiting on Zenit.
7.10pmEduardo Salvio's inclusion is massive for the Portuguese club. The midfielder was rated doubtful for tonight, but Salvio, who has 10 Champions League goals under his belt, starts in the middle of the park with Gaitan and Samaris.
7.14pmRight we've finally attained the Zenit team and we'll have this imminently. The Xerox machine at the Estadio da Luz must be on the fritz.
7.17pmThe big news from a Zenit perspective is definitely that of Hulk's inclusion. The Brazil international was more Bruce Banner than his powerful alter-ego heading into this one after picking up a hip injury, but he has been passed fit to start here. He is without a goal since scoring against Amkar Perm last month so he might just be due one.
7.19pmSpeaking of perms, Axel Witsel also shrugs off a knock to start in midfield and is one of three former Benfica boys on the team sheet, along with Javi Garcia and Ezequiel Garay. Salomon Rondon spearheads the Zenit attack, with highly-rated Danny among those supporting the lone striker. Viktor Fayzulin is suspended.
7.20pmZenit's front line of Hulk, Danny and Rondon have 50 Champions League goals between them. They've never won here as we mentioned, but they're in a shout tonight you'd imagine.
7.23pmIt'll be interesting to see what kind of reception Witsel, Garcia and Garay get from their former fans. What's more interesting is if they can use their Benfica history, under Jorge Jesus, to their advantage. Jesus is understandably wary about how much knowledge his former players boast in regards to his tactics. Here's what the Portuguese told UEFA.com recently:
7.24pm"Axel Witsel and Javi García are in a better position than me – they know how exactly to stop us as they worked with me at Benfica two seasons ago," he said. "Zenit have three players [along with Ezequiel Garay] who fully understand Benfica's game plan."
7.26pmDid you know? Zenit have started the Champions League group stages with an away loss every year since 2011? Yep. But if that isn't quite ominous enough then this next stat certainly is:
7.27pmBelieve it or not, but Benfica are on a 51-game unbeaten streak at the Estadio da Luz in all competitions, with Barcelona being the last side to beat them here back in October 2012. Two years is a long time when you're playing there every other week. However, Zenit boast a coach who knows what it takes to win here.
7.29pmVillas-Boas's Porto side won 2-1 here back in 2011, with Hulk on the scoresheet that day. AVB has faced Benfica seven times as a coach - four wins, three defeats - but the young Portuguese coach is targeting a fifth win tonight:
7.32pm"We are here to win," Villas-Boas told UEFA.com on Monday. "It's a tough group and picking up points on your travels could be very important. A draw would be a good result, but I am not saying that I will field a team to play for a draw."
7.34pmPrediction! He thinks a draw would be a good result. What do you? What do I think? I'm going to be bold and go for a 3-2 Zenit win. As discussed, Villas-Boas has enjoyed success over Benfica before, and with Hulk, who has five goals in 12 against the Eagles, you can't rule out another win, can you?
7.36pm46 years ago today the late, great Eusebio was awarded the European Golden Boot after scoring six times in Benfica's run to the final in 1968. No pressure then Lima.
7.41pmRight we're about five minutes away from the start of the Champions League proper again folks! Both sets of players are being serenaded by the famous music, perhaps the only song that none of us can get bored of hearing.
7.45pmCaptains Danny and Luisao now exchange some pre-match handshakes with each other and the officials and we're just moments away now.
1 minAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand we're off at the Estadio da Luz. Zenit, playing from left to right, get us underway. Let's go!
2 minVery comfortable start for the visitors who have barely lost possession since kicking off. Some very tidy passing going on.
5 minWhat an unbeliveable start for Zenit! Hulk, as he so often does, scores against Benfica, receiving Shatov's through ball before curling past Artur. That was was far too easy.
7 minBenfica respond well to going behind and fashion a few corners but Zenit comfortably deal with them.
10 minShot! Gaitan leads Benfica's charge to try get back on level terms but his effort from outside the area is palmed away by Lodygin. Promising.
13 minHulk's pace is causing all sorts of problems. Just then he raced on to Danny's over-the-ball top ball but he was flagged offside. Jorge Jesus will need to sort out this issue soon because it really could be game over by half time. Hulk looks that up for it.
18 minA miserable start for Benfica has gotten far, far worse as goalkeeper Artur is sent off for fouling Danny just outside the box. Artur came out for a 50-50 ball, Danny went around him and the stopper barged him off the ball, denying a certain goal.
19 minClose! Hulk takes a resulting free kick and drives it just wide of Paulo Lopes' - who replaced striker Talisco - post.
23 minOh dear this could be such a long night for Benfica. Witsel, who used to play for Benfica, nods Zenit into a two-goal lead after beating Lopes from a corner. Or did he? Lopes felt that he kept the ball out but the referee gave it. Talk about insult to injury.
26 minBenfica, to their credit, are sticking in there. I mean, it'll take a mammoth effort to salvage anything from this, but they're actually the better team since the second goal. Still, it's such a big ask.
29 minAre we seeing the end of a 51-game unbeaten run at the Estadio da Luz for Benfica? I don't see any way back.
31 minChance! Hulk is really in the mood tonight. He goes close once again, cutting inside Eliseu, who's had a shocker, before drilling just wide of Lopes' near post. Benfica had their hands full with Hulk when they had 11 men. Suffice to say he's got the tools to make this a very long night for the hosts.
34 minNothing is going Benfica's way tonight. Salvio tries to win a corner by kicking it off Shatov, but the ball ricochets off the Zenit man and goes off Salvio for a goal kick.
37 minGetting to half time with just the two-goal deficit might represent a victory in itself for Benfica, who have been on the ropes in the last few minutes.
41 minIt looks like we probably will make it to half time without any more goals. It's gone a bit flat, with the Benfica fans collectively sighing at every misplaced pass from their team.
45 minBetter from the hosts, as Eliseu swings in a teasing cross for Lima but Lombaerts averts the danger. Hulk then shows tremendous skill in turning his marker before galloping away with the ball, but his pass to Danny is over-hit.
8.34pmOh dear. As soon as the referee blows for the half-time a chorus of boos echo around the Estadio da Luz. Jorge Jesus will have to live up to his name and turn water into wine if Benfica are to salvage anything from this one.
8.38pmIf you've just joined us: Zenit lead 10-man Benfica 2-0 at the break, courtesy of goals from Hulk and Axel Witsel, either side of a red card for goalkeeper Artur. Spare a thought for Talisca, who saw his Champions League debut cut short after it was he who was sacrificed by Jorge Jesus for replacement keeper Paulo Lopes.
8.45pmYou can understand the frustrations of the Benfica fans, too. They went behind after four minutes, and it was one of their old boys Witsel that put Zenit two-nil to the good. Boos are inevitable, but they'll need to support their troops in the second half. They're the 12th man - or 11th in this case.
45 minWe're back underway folks. Is it a case of reducing the damage on their goal difference at this point for Benfica, or can they crow-bar their way back into it somehow? We'll soon find out.
46 minSubstitution: Just one sub to tell you about as Aleksandr Anyukov replaces Smolnikov. None for Benfica, who have only two changes left of course after Talisca was sacrificed for Lopes.
50 minSlow start to this second half, as Zenit don't look up to much and Benfica struggling in the final third for obvious reasons. They had just have a penalty waived away, however, as Lima went down under a challenge from Lombaerts.
53 minJardel just concedes a corner to prevent Hulk from reaching Anyukov's pass. It comes to nothing as Benfica clear what is Zenit's first real cross of this second half. Still 2-0.
55 minSave! Luisao just showed Zenit why it's so important for them to get a third because it was so nearly game on again. The big defender evades his marker to nod a Gaitan free kick goalward, but Yury Lodygin dives across to his left and keep out the header. Fine effort with a fine save to match. It's a warning to Zenit.
56 minYellow card: Benfica defender Maxi Pereira picks up a booking for a cynical foul.
58 minOff the post! It looks like Zenit took heed of Benfica's warning shot afterall and Hulk comes within the width of the post from ending this one, running on to Danny's reverse pass before firing across Lopes and seeing his shot trickle against the post, with Luisao denying Rondon from reaching the rebound.
61 minYellow card:Javi Garcia now goes into the referees note book for a silly push on Gaitan. Pointless challenge from the ex-Man City man.
64 minChance! Zenit are dicing with danger as Benfica come close to again halving the deficit, as Lima capitalises on an error from Lombaerts but, shooting at an angle, Lodygin does well to narrow his vision and save with his feet.
67 minZenit's final ball is letting them down. They've been 3 on 2 a few times with the Benfica defence but Rondon, in particular, is guilty of playing the wrong ball time and again.
71 minChance! Well there's no excuse for this, and if Benfica somehow manage to salvage a point then Villas-Boas will hold Rondon personally responsible because the striker has just missed the chance of the half, slotting wide with just Lopes to beat as another chance goes begging in this half.
73 minSubstitution: Jorge Jesus opts to replace Lima with fellow Brazilian Derley for the final 17 minutes or so.
75 minSubstitution: Two more subs to tell you about now as Jesus replaces Samaris with Andre Almeida in his final throw of the dice, while Rondon comes off for Pavel Mogilevets in Zenit's second change.
77 minHalf chance for Luisao there, as the defender shoots through a crowd of bodies and manages to get his effort on target, but it's weak and Lodygin comfortably saves. You wonder if those two earlier chances from Luisao and Lima will come back to haunt Benfica.
80 minChance: Derley does well to get his shot away in a crowded box, but it's deflected narrowly wide for a corner. Instead of launching the ball into the box, where the 6'6 Luisao can be found, Benfica play it short and end up losing it. I don't understand that decision.
83 minBenfica look fresh out of ideas now it has to be said. So do Zenit, for that matter. It's very likely that this will end 2-0.
85 minSubstitution: Hulk is replaced by Andrey Arshavin for the final five mintues. It's hand shakes galore for the Brazilian, who is congratulated by the Zenit playing and coaching staff for his role in this probable victory.
87 minIncidentally, Zenit are moving top of Group C as it stands, ahead of Monaco on goal difference as the French giants currently lead Bayer Leverkusen 1-0. It's a tough group and victory in the first game will do both of those teams a world of good.
9.37pmThat's all she wrote, my friends. Zenit become the first team since Barcelona back in October 2012 to beat Benfica on their own soil as Andre Villas-Boas's side get their Champions League campaign off to a solid start.
9.39pmAnyways, that's all from me. Stay tuned for analysis and player ratings, however, as we'll have them for you very soon. Thanks for joining Sports Mole and we hope to see you next time. Goodnight for now.