MX23RW : Wednesday, November 14 12:01:15

Preview: Benfica vs. Zenit St Petersburg

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

Zenit: WWWWWW

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

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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
Read Next:
Champions League 2014-15: Group C preview
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Porto108022161524
2Sporting Lisbon107121810822
3Braga106311910921
4Benfica106221911820
5Rio AveRio Ave105321713418
6MoreirenseMoreirense105141114-316
7Vitoria de GuimaraesGuimaraes104331512315
8Vitoria de SetubalSetubal104241311214
9Santa ClaraSanta Clara104241716114
10BelenensesBelenenses1026278-112
11PortimonensePortimonense103251218-611
12Maritimo10316613-710
13Desportivo das AvesAves103161115-410
14TondelaTondela102351214-29
15Nacional102351019-99
16Feirense10235711-49
17BoavistaBoavista10235814-69
18ChavesChaves10217917-87

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