Good evening! The Champions League
returned in style last night with plenty of goals, and Real Madrid were the stars of the show, putting six past Galatasaray.
Tonight, it is the turn of their cross-city rivals, Atletico Madrid
, who are competing in Europe's premier competition for the first time in four seasons.
In 2009-2010, Atletico exited the Champions League at the group stage, but they have emerged as a greater force in Spain and across Europe since then, and, this year, they will be expecting to progress further.
The La Liga outfit have an incredible record of lifting European silverware in five of the last six seasons. Two Europa Leagues, two Super Cups and an Intertoto Cup have all been added to the Vicente Calderon trophy cabinet since 2008.
However, their opponents, who finished second in the Russian league last year, have continental pedigree of their own, winning the UEFA Cup and Super Cup double in 2008.
Right, we have looked back into the past enough, for now, so let us look into the future and to tonight's clash in Spain. Team news coming up...
Courtois; Juanfran, Godin, Miranda, Luis; Turan, Gabi, Koke
, Suarez; Adrian, Villa
SUBS: Aranzubia; Alderweireld, Insua, Rodriguez, Guilavogil, Garcia, Baptistao
Lodygin; Ansaldi, Lombaerts, Luis Neto, Hubocan; Smolnikov, Zyryanov, Wisel; Hulk
, Danny; Kerzhakov
SUBS: Baburin, Lukovic, Shatov, Tymoshchuk, Bystrov, Arshavin, Faizulin
The inclusion of one striker and the omission of another is probably the headline news following the announcement of tonight's teams. Hulk starts for Zenit, but there is no Diego Costa
Brazilian forward Hulk was an injury doubt for the visitors with a groin strain, but he is fit to take his place in a three-prong attack with Danny and Aleksandr Kerzhakov.
That trio certainly present Zenit with a goalscoring threat, and finding the net has not been a problem for them in domestic competition this season...
They average just under two goals a game in their opening eight matches of the Russian league campaign, from which they have picked up 17 points, three fewer than leaders CSKA Moscow.
Former Arsenal forward Andrey Arshavin
is another attacking threat for Zenit, but he starts on the bench for the club to whom he returned following his hit-and-miss spell at the Emirates Stadium.
Zenit include Nicolas Lombaerts in their back four, but Atletico leave their Belgian international defender Toby Alderweireld, a summer arrival from Ajax, on the bench.
, who cost Zenit around £30m from Benfica, is another Belgian representative in the Russian's XI, but Italian full-back Domenico Criscito is one international missing from their squad.
As with their opponents, Atletico have been free scoring so far this season, with Simeone's side having found the net 14 times in 4 matches, despite losing star striker Radamel Falcao to Monaco this summer.
has scored four of those goals, but he is absent from the Madrid lineup tonight, with marquee signing David Villa
partnering Adrian in the Spanish side's attack. There is still some firepower in that strike pairing though...
Another Belgian, wow these guys are everywhere nowadays, Atletico keeper Thibaut Courtois, will be looking to impress parent club Chelsea on the game's grandest stage.
Just over 10 minutes until kickoff at the Vicente Calderon...
STAT: Zenit have not won on any of their five trips to Spain, and this time last year, they fell to a 3-0 defeat to La Liga outfit Malaga in their group-stage opener.
Speaking of Courtois, the 21-year-old stopper has revealed that tonight he will be fulfilling a childhood dream.
"I have wanted to play in the Champions League since I was young and I am especially enthusiastic to play in this competition with Atletico," Courtois said on the Atletico's official website.
Italian tactician Luciano Spalletti is in charge of Zenit these days, and he feels that his side are in good form and cannot afford to drop their standards against Atletico:
"We are playing better and better every match," Spalletti told reporters.
"But we are still making some mistakes and we cannot afford to make those against teams like Atletico."
PREDICTION: Zenit have a few talented stars in their ranks, but Simeone has forged an impressive Atletico outfit in recents, and I expect them to triumph by the odd goal. 2-1 Atletico.
The action is underway in Spain...
Turan gets to the left byline, but Lombaerts heads clear. The ball eventually falls to Villa, who is crowded out as he attempts to create some space for a shot.
SHOT! Again Turan leads an Atletico attack, but this time he has a go himself instead of looking for other options. His 25-yard drive is on target, but Lodygin holds comfortably above his head.
SHOT! It takes Hulk all of five minutes to have a go at goal, and it is a wayward loosener from the Brazilian, whose attempted curler finishes high and wide.
's inswinging cross is overhit and inadvertently calls Lodygin into action, with the Zenit number one back-peddling and palming the delivery over the crossbar.
Villa plays a one-two with Adrian and this time does have space to follow-up his smart footwork with a shot, but his effort is about as accurate as Hulk's at the other end.
Zenit counter really well, firstly through Hulk, whose clever flick around the corner finds Danny. The Portuguese winger breaks with pace and rolls in Kerzhakov, but the Russian forward does not quite have the speed which he used to possess, and he ends up settling for a corner.
This has all the makings of an entertaining contest. Both sides are moving the ball quickly and committing plenty of men forward when they do attack. It is visible why they are both prolific in domestic competition, but we are goalless at present.
SHOT! Felipe Luis plays the ball inside to Villa, who somehow manages to find him with a return pass despite being floored when he did so. Spain's leading goalscorer eventually receives the ball again, only to strike it straight at Lodygin.
Kerzhakov is muscled to the ground around 35 yards out to the right centre of the pitch, and Hulk sprints to the dead ball to command authority over the set piece.
Hulk takes a Roberto Carlos-esque run up and hammers the ball low into the advertising hoardings behind the goal.
Cristian Ansaldi, a summer recruit from Rubin Kazan, is being employed at left-wing-back and he has started the game very well, foiling the dribbles of Turan on a number of occasions.
CHANCE! Perhaps the clearest sight of goal so far this evening, as Koke pokes awkwardly wide after Mario Suarez had wriggled free of a couple of tackles and squared to him 12 yards out.
This time, Turan gets the better of Ansaldi as he skips past the Uruguayan defender, only for Zyryanov to meet him at the byline and block his attempted pass to Villa. Corner.
CLOSE! Axel Witsel
stretches out a leg to intercept a Turan pass, and the ball ricochets to Felipe Luis, who slightly drags his 25-yard effort wide of Lodygin's left post.
Atletico are starting to establish some pressure here and certainly look the closest to breaking the deadlock on a goal-shy night thus far. Only Barcelona have scored in Champions League action this evening, and, typically, it was Lionel Messi on the scoresheet.
Felipe drifts in off the left and dances through several Zenit tackles in the area. He is forced backwards and the ball is eventually shifted to Adrian, whose cross is bound for Villa before Tomas Hubocan heads clear.
Lombaerts slips under little pressure, and Villa makes a dash to steal the ball from him, but Zenit's Belgian international hooks it clear before the former Barca striker can capitalise.
GOAL! Atletico 1-0 Zenit (Miranda)
Atletico take the lead and for all of their possession during the last 15 minutes, it is a set piece that has yielded the opening goal. Koke delivers to the near post, and Miranda loses his marker Neto with just the slightest bit of movement, and then angles his close-range header into the net. Poor defending from the visitors, but a deserved advantage for Madrid.
Adrian runs down the wing and tries to release Villa in the left channel. It's good vision from the forward, but Lodygin races off his line to collect the ball before Villa can reach it.
SHOT! Koke is starting to have a real influence on the game for Atletico tonight and he tries to add a goal to assist with a long-range strike that has Lodygin scrambling as the ball drifted wide of the target.
Madrid should be two up. Koke's delivery is again superb and he picks out Diego Godin
in the centre of the goal from his free kick on the right flank. Unlike his central defensive partner, though, Godin cannot find the net as he nods over from six yards.
BOOKING: Immediately up the other end, Godin becomes the first player to be cautioned this evening for handling the ball during a tussle with Hulk. The Brazilian takes the free-kick himself, but fires it straight into the wall.
HALF-TIME: Atletico 1-0 Zenit
Atletico really asserted themselves on this contest following an evenly-contested first 15 minutes. David Villa
, Koke and Felipe Luis had sights on goal before Miranda headed the Spaniards into a half-time advantage, with the help of an inviting Koke cross and some sloppy defending.
Diego Godin should have joined his centre-back partner on the scoresheet just prior to the interval, but misdirected his header over the crossbar. At the other end, Zenit have been limited to a few speculative efforts from Hulk, who has yet to find his radar this evening.
STATS: The fact that each side has enjoyed 50& of possession in the opening half is a bit misleading of the action, as Zenit have done little with their time on the ball compared to Atletico. This is reflected in their lack of a shot on target, while Madrid have tested Lodygin on three occasions.
The action has resumed in Spain, and we have news of a Zenit change...
SUBSTITUTION: It appears as though Spalletti has adjusted his formation from 5-2-3 to 4-4-2 at the break by bringing on midfielder Oleg Shatov for defender Luis Neto.
BOOKING: A lovely spin from Villa, who draws a yellow-card worthy tackle from Lombaerts as he turns away from the Belgian. The resultant free kick is collected by Lodygin.
We saw very little from Danny, who has netted six times already for Zenit this season, in the first half. The winger embarks on a dribble here, but is foiled by Juafran as he enters the box.
BOOKING: Villa's superb footwork is again too quick for a Zenit defender as Smolnikov earns himself a yellow card for clattering into the Spaniard. It was a marvellous Cruyff turn from the Atletico forward.
Ansaldi miscues a clearance in his own box straight into the air. The ball lingers over Adrian, who prepares to head towards goal before Smolnikov takes both him and the ball out of the danger zone. It's a thumping challenge from the Zenit defender, but there are no appeals for a penalty.
SAVE! Courtois is called into action for the first time this evening, and he makes quite a first impression with a fantastic diving low stop from Kerzhakov's header. Wonderful save.
GOAL! Atletico 1-1 Zenit (Hulk)
Out of nowhere, Zenit are level and it is a brilliant goal from back to front. Zenit counter through Ansaldi, who releases Hulk through the middle. He plays the ball into the feet of Kerzhakov and collects a return pass before unleashing a 30-yard rocket beyond Courtois into the top corner.
WOODWORK! Hulk has most certainly found his radar in this second period and he nearly scores a second wonder goal in the space of two minutes, but the crossbar denies his 30-yard bending free kick.
GOAL! Atletico 2-1 Zenit (Turan)
From the sublime, to the ridiculous. A delicious Koke delivery into the box is palmed away by Lodygin, but only into the danger zone. Villa and Adrian both have shots blocked and in one hell of a goalmouth scramble, Turan follows up with a further effort. Hubocan throws his body in-front of the shot, but the Turkish international closes down his clearance and effectively tackles the ball into the net. Zenit will consider themselves unlucky, but Turan was rewarded for his perseverance!
SAVE! Villa is now single-handedly responsible for 3/4 of Zenit's back line being cautioned, as another clever turn on the edge of the box results in a late challenge from Hubocan, who joins Lombaerts and Smolnikov in the book. From the resulting free kick, Gabi whips the ball left-footed around the wall and Lodygin does well to parry the wall behind.
CLOSE! Godin is again off target with a header, that goes over the crossbar, after Turan superbly found him in the area when Koke's corner was cleared to him on the left flank.
CHANCE! That's remarkably a hat-trick of headed misses from Godin. This may be the most difficult of his trio of opportunities, though, as he can only direct Koke's corner over the crossbar at the far post.
This has been an absolutely fantastic response to Zenit's equaliser by Madrid. They enjoyed some slight fortune in regaining the lead, but they have been electric since and perhaps could have extended their advantage into a comfortable one.
Now it is Zenit's turn to react, and they do so by calling on the services of former Arsenal forward Andrey Arshavin
, who has been used mostly as an impact player since returning for a third spell at the Russian club. Captain and central midfielder Konstantin Zyryanov is the man sacrificed.
Simeone turns to his bench for the first time, substituting Adrian for Leo Baptistao
, a 21-year-old Brazilian forward signed from Rayo Vallecano this summer.
GOAL! Atletico 3-1 Zenit (Baptistao)
What an impact from the substitute! He had probably been on the pitch less than a minute when the ball fell kindly to him on the edge of the box, and he took one touch before opening up his body and calmly slotting the ball into the bottom corner for his first goal as an Atletico player.
SHOT! Hulk, who was yellow carded for a clumsy lunge on Godin just prior to Madrid's third goal, wins a free kick in the attacking third, which is deflected wide.
SUBSTITUTION: And that's the last of Hulk we shall see tonight, as Spalletti spares the Brazilian the final five minutes by replacing him with Vladimir Bystrov.
SUBSTITUTIONS: Diego Simeone
also introduces some fresh faces for the latter stages of this contest, replacing Arda Turan
and Koke with Christian Rodriguez and Raul Garcia.
Garcia is the only man in this Madrid squad that played the last time that they recorded victory in the Champions League, five seasons ago. Their wait for another win in Europe's elite competition is almost over...
We are now entering second-half stoppage time, of which there will be three minutes...
SAVE! Courtois prevents Atletico having to endure a nervy finish by making himself big at the near post to foil a powerful shot from Danny, from whom we have seen very little all evening.
FULL-TIME: Atletico 3-1 Zenit
That was an enthralling second half. I couldn't keep up at some points! After Miranda had given Atletico a half-time lead with an unmarked header, Zenit, and Hulk in particular, came out of the blocks flying. The Brazilian equalised with a stunning 30-yard drive, and then nearly put the Russians ahead when he hit the crossbar from a similar distance.
However, Atletico's response was magnificent. They were on the right side of a spot of fortune as Turan's attempted tackle in the Zenit box dribbled into the visiting net, but from then on they never allowed Luciano Spalletti's side a glimmer of a second equaliser. Substitute Leo Baptistao netted a minute after his introduction to make sure of the result, which makes Madrid the early leaders in Group G!
That is all from me for tonight! Be sure to return to Sports Mole for live text coverage of some of Thursday's Europa League ties. Thanks for joining us this evening. Over and out...