by Ian S. Palmer
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Benfica of Portugal hosts Zenit St. Petersburg of Russia this Tuesday, February 16 in a round-of-16 European Champions League showdown at the Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica in Lisbon. This is the first leg of a two-game home and away series with the second match taking place in Russia two weeks later. Benfica will be attempting to reach the quarter-final stage for the first time in the past four years. Each team has some injuries to deal with as Luisao, Fejsa, Lisandro Lopez and Rebocho could miss the game for Benfica while Fayzulin, Malafeev, Smolnikov, and Ryazantsev are all questionable for Zenit.
Benfica vs Zenit St. Petersburg – Pinnacle Sports Soccer BETTING LINE:
- Pinnacle Sports currently lists Benfica as the favorites at +111 with Zenit +304 and a draw at +234
Benfica vs Zenit St. Petersburg – Head to Head:
- These teams met in the group stage in 2014/15 with Zenit winning 2-0 in Lisbon after Benfica’s goaltender Artur was sent off the pitch with a red card after 18 minutes. Zenit then won their home fixture 1-0 in St. Petersburg. The clubs also met in the round of 16 stage back in 2011/12 with Benfica wining 4-3 on aggregate. They were 2-0 winners in Lisbon and 3-2 losers in Russia. Benfica’s loss to Zenit last year was their first at home in their past 14 European matches. Benfica has for wins, two draws and just one loss at home against Russian clubs and overall have five wins, four draws and four losses.
Benfica finished second place in the group stage in Group C behind Atletico Madrid of Spain. They had three wins, a draw and two losses with 10 goals scored and eight allowed. Galatasaray finished third in their group with FC Astana finishing fourth and last. Zenit won Group H with five victories and a defeat with 13 goals for and six against. They competed in a group against Gent, Valencia, and Olympique Lyonnais.
Benfica will be playing in the knockout round of the tournament for just the second time in their past eight appearances. Zenit enter the round of 16 with only one loss so far. They were hoping to become the sixth team in history to win all six of their group stage outings. Zenit is now trying to reach the quarterfinal stage for the first time ever. They’ve been successful in Portugal lately with a win in each of their past three trips there, including a 2-0 triumph over Benfica.
Benfica has won 12 out of 14 games since losing against Atletico Madrid on matchday six. They had an 11-game winning streak going until last Friday when Porto edged them 2-1 at home. Benfica had scored at least four goals six times during their recent winning streak. Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou has been their hottest player with eight goals over his last seven appearances in all competitions. There have been several squad changes for Benfica as Alejandro Grimaldo, Luka Jovic and Eduardo Salvio have been added while Bilal Ould-Chikh, Bryan Cristante and Victor Andrade have been dropped.
Zenit hasn’t played in a competitive match losing to Gent 2-1 on matchday six so could be a little rusty. The Russian league took its annual winter break and Zenit held training camps Portugal and Qatar during their time off. However, they did play several friendly matches during that time. Zenit has also made some squad changes as Yuri Zhirkov, Aleksandr Kokorin and Maurício have all been added.