MX23RW : Monday, September 27 11:36:30| >> :120:7783:7783:
Dec 10, 2019 at 8pm UK at Estádio da Luz
Attendance: 40,232
ZenitZenit St Petersburg
Cervi (47'), Pizzi (58' pen.), Azmoun (79' og.)
FT(HT: 0-0)

Preview: Benfica vs. Zenit St Petersburg - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Benfica's meeting with Zenit Saint Petersburg in the Champions League, including a prediction, team news and predicted lineups.

Zenit St Petersburg travel to Lisbon to face Benfica in the Champions League on Tuesday knowing that victory would guarantee them a place in the knockout phases.

The Russian side have the exact same record as Lyon, sitting on seven points, but are in the box seat due to their superior head-to-head record, while Benfica are already eliminated.

Match preview

Benfica coach Bruno Lage pictured in April 2019© Reuters

For some time now, the story of Benfica has been one of unchallenged success on a domestic level and marked failure in the Champions League.

Since 2010, the Lisbon side has left the Champions League at the group phase on seven occasions while also winning the Primeira Liga six times during the same period.

Failure to translate domestic dominance into European competence can often be explained by a league containing opponents of a lesser quality, but in Benfica's case a lot of the blame can be levelled towards how the club operates structurally.

For over a decade, Benfica has been a club notable for its capacity to produce, and then release into Europe, supremely talented players - Joao Felix, Ederson, Victor Lindelof, Renato Sanches, Nelson Semedo and Raul Jimenez are just a few examples - to the detriment of how the team performs in the long term.

As Benfica now focus on strolling to another league title after the meeting with Zenit, you have to wonder whether the club's hierarchy will produce some changes in response to once again finishing bottom of their Champions League group despite having such a worldwide status.

Zenit St Petersburg fans greet their team on February 21, 2019© Reuters

Zenit, on the other hand, have an excellent opportunity to reach the knockout phases of this competition for the first time in four years as they ride the wave of what has been an excellent campaign.

Sitting 10 points clear at the top of the domestic table, Zenit have performed strongly in Europe save for back to back defeats to group leaders RB Leipzig.

Having kicked off their campaign with a credible 1-1 draw in Lyon, victories at home over the latter as well as Benfica demonstrate that Zenit's imperious home record could make them potentially sticky opponents in the knockout phases.

However, while losing one home game in all competitions since July serves as an impressive record, it means little ahead of this fixture, which demands Zenit to do something that they have not done since 2015 - win an away game in the Champions League.

Against a Benfica side with nothing to play for and with the knockout phases in sight, Zenit have rarely had a better opportunity to claim such a landmark victory.

Recent Benfica form (Champions League): LLWLD
Recent Benfica form (all competitions): WWDWDW

Recent Zenit Saint Petersburg form (Champions League): DWLLW
Recent Zenit Saint Petersburg form (all competitions): LWWWWW

Team News

Zenit St Petersburg head coach Sergei Semak pictured in April 2019© Reuters

Andre Almeida and David Tavares are both certain to miss this game, with both players suffering thigh injuries.

Goalkeeper Mile Svilar is unavailable due to an injury to his Achilles tendon, while Rafa Silva is out until late February with a groin problem.

Alexander Kokorin could possibly return from a knee injury, although Sergey Zuykov and Emanuel Mammana are definitely out for a while due to cruciate ligament problems.

Malcom, signed from Barcelona over the summer, looks set to be out with a hip problem until the end of next month, but it remains to be seen as to when goalkeeper Andrey Lunev will return.

Benfica possible starting lineup:
Vlachodimos; T. Tavares, Dias, Ferreira, Grimaldo; Pires, Taarabt, Pizzi, Cervi; Chiquinho, Vinicius

Zenit Saint Petersburg possible starting lineup:
Kerzhakov; Karavayev, Ivanovic, Rakitskiy, Santos; Barrios, Ozdoyev, Kuzyayev, Driussi; Azmoun, Dzyuba

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We say: Benfica 1-2 Zenit Saint Petersburg

The combination of a five-game winning run and the importance of this fixture, compared with Benfica's lowly performances in Europe over the last few years, puts Sergei Semak's side in the box seat to take all three points in this game.

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