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Gent must find way to stop Zenit juggernaut

KAA Gent are aiming to prolong their first UEFA Champions League campaign by clinching qualification to the last 16 but face an FC Zenit side eyeing a sixth straight win.

Gent celebrate their matchday five win in Lyon
Gent celebrate their matchday five win in Lyon ©AFP/Getty Images

Newcomers KAA Gent are bidding to prolong their first UEFA Champions League campaign by clinching qualification to the knockout stage.

• The Belgian title holders go into their matchday six fixture against Group H winners FC Zenit in second place and will progress with a victory – or if third-placed Valencia CF fail to beat Olympique Lyonnais in the group's other fixture.

• Yet to drop a point, Zenit have already secured qualification as group winners and with another victory would become only the sixth club to achieve a 100% winning record in a UEFA Champions League group stage.

• Zenit's Belgian international defender Nicolas Lombaerts began his career with Gent.

Match background

• Gent go into their final group game on the back of two straight victories, having won at home to Valencia (1-0) on matchday four then triumphed at Lyon (2-1) last time out.

• They are bidding to become the first Belgian side to reach the last 16 since RSC Anderlecht in 2000/01 – and the first to win three successive group matches since Anderlecht that year.

Beaten 2-1 at Zenit on matchday two, Gent had only faced Russian opposition once before this season. In the 1991/92 UEFA Cup third round they defeated FC Dinamo Moskva 2-0 on aggregate, winning the first leg 2-0 at the Jules Ottenstadion, their old home, through goals from Erwin Vandenbergh and Marc Vanderlinden.

• Gent are already assured at least third place in the group and so will be playing European football after Christmas for the first time since that 1991/92 campaign.

• Zenit are looking for a sixth straight win to emulate the feat of AC Milan (1992/93), Paris Saint-Germain FC (1994/95), FC Spartak Moskva (1995/96), FC Barcelona (2002/03) and Real Madrid CF (2011/12, 2014/15).

• They will win the group by a competition record-equalling 11-point margin if they beat Gent and Valencia fail to win against Lyon.

• Zenit last visited Belgium for a 1-0 play-off victory at R. Standard de Liège in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League, Oleg Shatov scoring the only goal. They also won the home return 3-0.

• They lost 1-0 at RSC Anderlecht in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League group stage and their overall record in Belgium is W2 D1 L2.

Coach and player links
• Lombaerts played for Gent between 2004 and 2007, making 76 league appearances and scoring once.

• André Villas-Boas's first European fixture as a head coach was with Porto against Belgian side KRC Genk in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League play-offs. Porto won the first leg 3-0 in Belgium before Hulk scored a hat-trick in a 4-2 home success.

• Villas-Boas faced Genk again as Chelsea FC manager in the following season's UEFA Champions League group stage, posting a 5-0 home win and 1-1 away draw.

• During his time as Genk coach Heinz Vanhaezebrouck suffered a 2-0 Belgian Super Cup defeat by Standard, in August 2009, in which Axel Witsel scored the second goal.

• Witsel scored twice against Gent as a Standard player, both times in away wins – 1-0 in May 2009 and 3-1 in April 2011.

• Depoitre played alongside Witsel when making his Belgium debut in a 4-1 UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying win in Andorra on 10 October.

• Players who have played together:
Laurent Depoitre, Sven Kums, Matz Sels & Axel Witsel, Lombaerts (Belgium)
Brian Vandenbussche & Lombaerts (Belgium 2006–07)

Match facts

• Nana Asare, Thomas Foket, Kenneth Saief, Laurent Depoitre and Benito Raman are all a booking away from suspension.

• Gent won four successive games after suffering their first Eerste Klasse defeat of the season, a 3-1 loss to R. Charleroi SC, on 8 November, but that run ended with a 2-2 draw against SV Zulte Waregem on 4 December.

• Gent reached the Belgian Cup quarter-finals on 1 December, beating the same Zulte Waregem side 1-0 at home thanks to Benito Raman's first-half goal.

• Brecht Dejaegere (hamstring), Nana Asare (knee), Lasse Nielsen (hamstring) and Danijel Milicevic (ankle) sustained injuries in that cup tie, though Asare returned for Friday's league game.

• Thomas Matton (foot), Hannes Van Der Bruggen (stomach muscle) and Nicklas Pedersen (ankle) are still out.

• Witsel serves a one-game ban on matchday six; Domenico Criscito and Hulk are a booking away from a ban.

• The Blue-White-Sky Blues have won only one of their last five Premier-Liga fixtures.

• Zenit lost 4-1 at FC Terek Grozny on 28 November, their biggest league reverse since 10 August 2008.

• Ezequiel Garay spared Zenit from another defeat on 3 December, his late penalty rescuing a 1-1 home draw against FC Ufa. Witsel had missed a spot kick five minutes earlier.