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Zenit look to gain upper hand

FC Zenit St. Petersburg have a formidable home record in Europe and they will hope for more of the same when AJ Auxerre visit in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off.

Zenit's Danny celebrates his winner against Unirea
Zenit's Danny celebrates his winner against Unirea ©FC Zenit St Petersburg

FC Zenit St. Petersburg will look to maintain their formidable European record at the Petrovsky Stadium when they take on AJ Auxerre in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off.

• The 2008 UEFA Cup winners have lost only two of 26 games in UEFA's main club competitions during the past decade – winning 14.

Match background
• Zenit and Auxerre meet for the first time with both seeking a third appearance in Europe's elite club competition.

• Zenit made their group-stage debut two years ago having previously reached the European Champion Clubs' Cup second round in 1985/86.

• Auxerre's two previous appearances both came in the UEFA Champions League era. They were quarter-finalists in 1996/97 (losing 4-1 on aggregate to eventual winners BV Borussia Dortmund) and competed in the group stage again in 2002/03.

• Third in the Russian Premier League in 2009, Zenit started their campaign in the third qualifying round where they defeated FC Unirea Urziceni 1-0 on aggregate, Danny scoring the only goal 33 minutes into the second leg in St Petersburg.

• Zenit were eliminated by Portuguese side CD Nacional at the play-off stage of the 2009/10 UEFA Europa League, losing 4-3 in Madeira before taking a 1-0 lead in the return only to concede an 89th-minute equaliser.

• Auxerre qualified automatically for this play-off by taking third place in France's Ligue 1 in 2009/10 – their highest placing since 2002.

• Zenit have won their two previous two-legged ties against French opposition – both against Olympique de Marseille in the UEFA Cup round of 16.

• Auxerre coach Jean Fernandez was at the Marseille helm when Zenit overcame the Ligue 1 club in 2005/06. They prevailed after a 1-0 first-leg win at the Stade Vélodrome and a 1-1 draw in the return, for which Fernandez was suspended, with Aleksandr Kerzhakov scoring Zenit's goal.

• Zenit prevailed again two seasons later en route to lifting the 2007/08 UEFA Cup. Trailing 3-0 in the first leg in Marseille, Andrey Arshavin struck an 82nd-minute reply and this proved decisive when Zenit won the return 2-0 to advance on away goals.

• Auxerre lost 4-0 at PFC CSKA Moskva on their last visit to Russia in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup quarter-finals, bowing out despite a 2-0 second-leg win. Centre-back Jean-Pascal Mignot is their only survivor from that tie.

• The French club's only other encounters with Russian opponents came in the UEFA Intertoto Cup. In the 2000 quarter-final, they beat FC Rostov home and away. In the 1997 semi-final against FC Torpedo Moskva, they scraped through on away goals after a 3-0 home win and 4-1 away loss.

Team ties
• Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti enjoyed UEFA Champions League success against French opposition with AS Roma. They defeated Olympique Lyonnais 2-0 on aggregate in the round of 16 in 2006/07. Spalletti's Roma also achieved home and away wins against FC Girondins de Bordeaux in the 2008/09 group stage.

• There are five survivors in Zenit's squad from their 2005/06 victory against Fernandez's Marseille: Vyacheslav Malafeev, Aleksandr Anyukov, Igor Denisov, Radek Šírl and Kerzhakov.

• Vladimir Bystrov, Denisov and Kerzhakov all featured in Zenit's first meeting with Ligue 1 opposition, a 2-1 loss at LOSC Lille Métropole in the 2004/05 UEFA Cup group stage. Kerzhakov scored Zenit's goal.

• Szabolcs Huszti spent 2005/06 in Ligue 1 with FC Metz and suffered a 2-1 home defeat by Auxerre. Sergei Semak also had a spell in France with Paris Saint-Germain FC between 2005 and 2006, making his final appearance in a 1-0 Coupe de France defeat of Auxerre on 1 February 2006.

• Valter Birsa was in the Slovenia side that defeated Russia on away goals in a play-off for a place at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. On the losing side were Zenit's Anyukov, Bystrov, Denisov, Kerzhakov, Semak and Konstantin Zyryanov– with Kerzhakov sent off in the second leg in Maribor.