Benfica hold a narrow 1-0 lead as they travel to Zenit St. Petersburg for the second leg of the Champions League knockout round of 16 tie. The match is scheduled for an early kick-off and will be played at 17:00 GMT, on Wednesday 9th March 2016.
The Russian side will be confident going into this game as they believe they can overturn the slight margin in front of their home crowd. But if they concede a goal, they must win this by 2 or more goals to progress to the quarter finals.
A draw will be enough to take Benfica through to the quarter finals, but their recent injury crisis presents a tall order at Petrovsky Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Zenit have won five matches in a row, before losing 2-1 to Gent on match day six of the group stages. The defeat at Benfica in the first leg put them on a two match win-less streak. However, there will be still some rustiness as Russian Premier League was on winter break and the campaign has only restarted 5th March.
Benfica are coming on the back of a 1-0 win over Sporting in the weekend and they are on a strong run after winning 17 of their last 18 games in all competitions. Since the tie against Zenit on 16th February, they have won all of their three matches and kept a clean sheet in the last two.
Zenit St. Petersburg: Team News
Domenico Criscito was sent-off in the first leg at Portugal and he is suspended for the return leg. Javi Garcia is also suspended after accumulating 5 yellow cards in the competition.
While Faizulin, Malafeev and Ryazantsev are sidelined for Zenit St. Petersburg due to injury.
Zenit St. Petersburg: Predicted Line-up vs Benfica (4-2-3-1)
Lodygin – Anyukov, Lombaerts, Garay, Smolinikov – Witsel, Neto – Shatov, Danny, Hulk – Dzyuba.
Benfica: Team News
Benfica head-coach Rui Vitória will be without six players for the trip to Saint Petersburg.
Lisandro Lopez, Luisao, Andre Almeida Lubomir Fejsa and Nuno Santos and are injured for Benfica, while Jardel is suspended.
Benfica: Predicted Line-up vs Zenit (4-2-3-1)
Cesar – Silvio, Nelsinho, Lindelof, Eliseu – Sanches, Samaris – Pizzi, Jonas, Gaitan – Mitroglou.
Zenit vs Benfica: Head-to-Head Stats
Zenit and Benifca had played against each other five times in the UEFA Champions League, with the Russians winning in three of them and losing two.
The teams were drawn together in the group stages of 2013/14 season, Zenit winning both the ties.
Benfica knocked out Zenit St. Petersburg 4-3 on aggregate in the knockout round of 16 in the 2011/12 season. Zenit won the first leg in St. Petersburg 3-2, but Benfica overturned the deficit at Porto by winning 2-0.
Moreover, Zenit have not lost at home in their last 7 European matches against Portuguese oppositions, with the record reading 5 wins and 2 draws. While Benfica have only won once in seven trips to Russia, which came against Lokomotiv Moscow in 1996.
Zenit vs Benfica: Prediction
Zenith St. Petersburg will go as firm favourites here considering their strong home form in Champions League this season. While their unbeaten record at home against Portuguese teams will give them added confidence.
Benfica are really struggling with injuries and especially in their defence and this could be the difference here. This is a tough ask for them and I could see Zenit winning this tie without any problem.