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.
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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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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)
• 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.