Sep 16, 2014 at 7.45pm UK at ​Estádio da Luz
ZenitZenit St Petersburg

Periera (60')
Artur (18')
FT(HT: 0-2)
Hulk (5'), Witsel (22')
Garcia (65')

Preview: Benfica vs. Zenit St Petersburg

Preview: Benfica vs. Zenit
© Getty Images
Sports Mole looks ahead to the Champions League Group C opener between Benfica and Zenit St Petersburg at the Estadio da Luz.

None of the four clubs in Group C of this season's Champions League are expected to get anywhere near winning the competition, yet it is widely regarded to be one of the most competitive of the eight groups.

With that in mind, getting off to a winning start could prove to be vital where qualification is concerned, with Benfica and Zenit St Petersburg due to meet at the Estadio da Luz on matchday one on Tuesday night.

Hosting Benfica, who are two-time winners of the competition, have never previously lost against a Russian club in front of their own supporters. In six encounters against sides from the Eastern European nation, four have been won, with the other two being drawn.

Indeed, one of those visits actually came from Zenit in the first knockout round of the tournament in 2012, with Benfica coming out on top 2-0, which secured a 4-3 victory on aggregate and a passage through to the quarter-finals.

Benfica head coach Jorge Jesus will have to make do without the services of left-back Andre Almeida for this clash because of suspension, while a leg complaint has rated loanee defender Silvio as a doubt.

Meanwhile, the encounter will see Zenit boss Andre Villas-Boas return to his native Portugal. During his time in charge of Porto and Academica de Coimbra, the 36-year-old faced Benfica seven times, winning four and losing three.

Like Benfica's Almeida, Zenit midfielder Viktor Fayzulin is banned, while Brazilian frontman Hulk is struggling with a hip complaint, but could feature. Ezequiel Garay, who switched between these two clubs during the summer, should also start in defence for the away side.

Recent form

Benfica: DWWDW


Possible starting lineups

Benfica: Moraes; Pereira, Luisao, Eliseu, Jardel; Perez, Gaitan, Salvio, Samaris; Talisca, Lima

Zenit: Lodygin; Criscito, Garay, Lombaerts, Smolnikov; Garcia, Witsel; Danny, Shatov, Hulk; Kerzhakov

Sports Mole says: 1-1

Benfica's Argentinian midfielder Nicolas Gaitan controls the ball during the Portuguese league football match Rio Ave vs Benfica at the Arcos stadium in Vila do Conde on December 1, 2013
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