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Zenit block APOEL's path into history books

APOEL FC visit FC Zenit St Petersburg knowing victory would take them into the last 16 for the first time but the Russian side's home record suggests that may prove easier said than done.

Aílton gets ahead of Zenit's Tomáš Hubočan during APOEL's 2-1 win in September
Aílton gets ahead of Zenit's Tomáš Hubočan during APOEL's 2-1 win in September ©Getty Images

APOEL FC have a piece of history within their grasp as they visit FC Zenit St Petersburg in their penultimate Group G fixture.

• The surprise section leaders, APOEL can become the first Cypriot team to secure a place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League by beating Zenit, while even a draw might suffice depending on the result between FC Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Porto.

• APOEL head to Russia as the pool's only unbeaten side but will face a tough test against second-placed Zenit who have a formidable home record and can leapfrog their rivals with victory.

Match background
• Like APOEL, Zenit are competing in the UEFA Champions League group stage for the second time and they too would qualify for the knockout phase for the first time with victory at the Petrovski Stadion, as long as Porto fail to beat Shakhtar.

• Zenit lost 2-1 to APOEL in Nicosia on matchday one yet they have won their last nine European home fixtures.

• In addition to this season's wins against Porto and Shakhtar, Luciano Spalletti's side posted seven consecutive home victories en route to last term's UEFA Europa League last 16. The last European visitors to avoid defeat against Zenit were CD Nacional, with a 1-1 draw on 27 August 2009.

• APOEL have lost only one of five away games in this season's competition, qualifying included.

• Ivan Jovanović's team also performed creditably on the road in their UEFA Champions League debut campaign in 2009/10 with draws at Club Atlético de Madrid and Chelsea FC.

• Before last season clubs from the two countries had never met, but Russian and Cypriot sides played in two UEFA Europa League ties in 2010/11. FC Sibir Novosibirsk eliminated Apollon Limassol FC on away goals in the third qualifying round, and PFC CSKA Moskva beat Anorthosis Famagusta FC 6-1 on aggregate in the play-offs. In both cases the Cypriot team suffered defeat on Russian soil.

Team ties
• Bruno Alves was in the Portugal side that faced Sanel Jahić's Bosnia and Herzegovina in the UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying play-offs, winning 6-2 on aggregate.

• Bruno Alves and Danny had earlier featured against Cyprus in a 4-4 draw in Guimaraes on 12 October 2010, with APOEL's Marios Elia, Constantinos Charalambides, Marinos Satsias and Savvas Poursaitides on the opposite side.

• Danny was a late substitute when Portugal won the return fixture 4-0 in Cyprus on 2 September this year, hitting the final goal two minutes into added time. Bruno Alves played 90 minutes against a Cyprus team including Poursaitides and Charalambides – replaced by APOEL club-mate Nektarios Alexandrou just past the hour – while Athos Solomou and Tasos Kissas were unused substitutes.

• Jahić played against Zenit in last season's UEFA Europa League group stage, his AEK Athens FC side losing 4-2 at the Petrovski Stadion.

• Alexandrou scored for Greece's Larissa FC in a 3-2 loss to Zenit in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup group stage.

• Aílton found the net in FC København's 2-0 friendly win against Zenit on 28 June 2008.

• William Boaventura played in two 2-0 defeats by Zenit while on loan at FC Kuban Krasnodar from FC Metalurh Donetsk in 2009.

• Ivan Tričkovski came up against Zenit's Aleksandr Anyukov, Roman Shirokov, Igor Denisov, Konstantin Zyryanov and Vladimir Bystrov when the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia lost 1-0 to Russia in a UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier on 12 October 2010.

• Tričkovski was also in the FYROM team that lost 1-0 in Russia on 2 September this year, Anyukov, Shirokov, Denisov and Zyryanov again featuring. Zenit's Vyacheslav Malafeev and Aleksandr Kerzhakov both came into the home team for the game in Moscow.

• Danny and APOEL defender Nuno Morais were team-mates at CS Marítimo and with the Portugal Under-21 side.

• Bruno Alves was Porto captain in 2009/10 when they played APOEL in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

• Kerzhakov faced Satsias as Russia met Cyprus in a friendly on 12 February 2003 in Limassol. Russia won 1-0.