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Zenit face up to Madrid maestros

FC Zenit St. Petersburg's tough introduction to the UEFA Champions League continues with a visit from nine-time European champions Real Madrid CF after an opening defeat at 1996 winners Juventus.

Zenit captain Anatoliy Tymoschuk in action against Juventus
Zenit captain Anatoliy Tymoschuk in action against Juventus ©Getty Images

Having started with a visit to 1996 victors Juventus in their first outing in the UEFA Champions League, FC Zenit St. Petersburg now take on nine-time European champions Real Madrid CF in Group H. The Russian titleholders began with a defeat on Matchday 1 while the Spanish giants recorded a comfortable 2-0 victory against another team making their debut in the competition, FC BATE Borisov, at the Santiago Bernabéu.

• Zenit, the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup holders, had given a good account of themselves in the Turin contest and only looked under threat from set-pieces. That route ultimately proved their undoing with Alessandro Del Piero scoring from a direct free-kick with 14 minutes remaining.

• Dick Advocaat's team overcame Spanish opponents on their way to last season's success in the UEFA Cup, defeating Villarreal CF on away goals in the Round of 32 – a win set up by a 1-0 victory in the home leg. It was only their second win over visitors from that country having also beaten Sevilla FC in the 2005/06 UEFA Cup group stage. Their other three contests at the Petrovsky Stadium against Spanish opponents in UEFA competition – two of which were also against Sevilla – ended in draws.

• In their triumphant UEFA Cup campaign Zenit eventually came good at home after stuttering in the group stage, drawing 1-1 with AZ Alkmaar and then 2-2 with 1. FC Nürnberg. In the four knockout ties they won three of the home legs without conceding a goal – 1-0 against Villarreal (Round of 32), 2-0 against Olympique de Marseille (Round of 16) and 4-0 against FC Bayern München in the semi-final. Pavel Pogrebnyak scored four of those and also contributed one of the home goals in the group games. In all he registered seven of Zenit's 16 goals in the knockout rounds.

• Zenit's only defeat in a total of eight home games in the tournament came in the quarter-final against Bayer 04 Leverkusen when they lost 1-0 but as they had won the away leg 4-1 it had little bearing on their overall supremacy. Including the second qualifying round, Zenit won five of their home games, drawing two and losing one, scoring 16 goals and conceding four.

• Madrid have not won away in the UEFA Champions League for seven games and last tasted success on their travels on 17 October 2006 when they beat FC Steaua Bucureşti 4-1. Since then they have had three draws and three defeats, including losses in the away leg in the first knockout rounds in the last two seasons, against AS Roma and Bayern.

• This is Madrid's first visit to Russia since the 2002/03 second group stage and although they were triumphant on that occasion – winning 1-0 against FC Lokomotiv Moskva – it is unlikely they would have been disappointed not to have made a return trip sooner than this. The 2002/03 campaign was the third in a row, and the fourth time in five seasons, that Los Merengues had been drawn against Russian opponents in the first or second group stage, and a case of third time lucky because they had been defeated on both the previous occasions against Lokomotiv and FC Spartak Moskva. They also lost there in 1998/99, against Spartak again. Their first four appearances in Russia before that sequence resulted in three draws and a defeat.

• Iker Casillas, Míchel Salgado, Raúl González and Guti all featured in Madrid's 2003 win in Moscow.

• In the UEFA EURO 2008semi-final Andrei Arshavin, Konstantin Zyryanov and Aleksandr Anyukov started for Russia against a Spain side that included Casillas and Sergio Ramos in their starting lineup.

• The other game in the group on Matchday 2 features FC BATE Borisov against Juventus.