Zenit's home influence a factor in Benfica test

Benfica have to get past a Portuguese coach and three former players in the Zenit ranks as they bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in four years.

Background: Benfica v Zenit ©AFP/Getty Images

SL Benfica come up against a Portuguese coach and three former players as they bid to get past FC Zenit and reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals again.

Previous meetings
• Axel Witsel, who was at Benfica in 2011/12, and Hulk, formerly with FC Porto, scored early goals as Zenit won 2-0 in Lisbon on matchday one in the 2014/15 campaign.

• Former Benfica players Javi García (2009–13) and Ezequiel Garay (2011–14) were also in the Zenit team. The home side had goalkeeper Artur sent off after 18 minutes.

• The lineups in Lisbon on 16 September 2014 were:
Benfica: Artur, Maxi Pereira, Luisão, Jardel, Eliseu, Samaris (André Almeida 74), Pérez, Salvio, Lima (Derley 74), Talisca (Paulo Lopes 20), Gaitán.
Zenit: Lodygin, Smolnikov (Anyukov 46), Garay, Lombaerts, Criscito, Javi García, Hulk (Arshavin 85), Danny, Witsel, Shatov, Rondón (Mogilevets 76).

• Danny, who began his career with CS Marítimo and Sporting Clube de Portugal, scored as Zenit won the return 1-0.

• In the 2011/12  round of 16, Benfica beat Zenit 4-3 on aggregate, a 2-0 home win overturning a 3-2 away defeat.

• The lineups in Lisbon on 6 March 2012 were:
Benfica: Artur, Maxi Pereira, Luisão, Jardel, Emerson, Javi García, Bruno César, Witsel, Gaitán (Matić 72), Rodrigo (Nolito 62), Cardozo (Nélson Oliveira 80).
Zenit: Malafeev, Anyukov (Bruno Alves 53), Hubočan, Lombaerts, Criscito, Denisov, Bystrov (Lazović 46), Zyryanov (Fayzulin 70), Shirokov, Semak, Kerzhakov.

Match background

• Last season's defeat against Zenit was their first loss in 14 European home encounters (W11 D2) since FC Barcelona's 2-0 win in the 2012/13 group stage.

• It was also their only home defeat against Russian opponents in seven encounters (W4 D2). Overall their record is W5 D4 L5.

• The 1961 and 1962 European champions subsequently won three and drew one of their four home games following that Zenit defeat before losing on matchday six this season to Club Atlético de Madrid with qualification already assured.

• Benfica finished second in Group C on ten points, three behind Atlético. They also beat FC Astana 2-0 and Galatasaray AŞ 2-1 in Lisbon.

• Qualification broke an unwanted sequence for the Eagles: they reached the knockout rounds in only one of their previous seven UEFA Champions League campaigns.

Defeat on matchday six at KAA Gent prevented the Russian champions from becoming only the sixth club to achieve the feat of winning all six UEFA Champions League group stage fixtures.

• Nevertheless André Villas-Boas's side, who are seeking a first ever appearance in the quarter-finals, finished five points ahead of Group H runners-up Gent, also winning 3-2 at Valencia CF and 2-0 at Olympique Lyonnais.

• They have won on each of their last three visits to Portugal – 2-0 at Benfica and 1-0 at Porto in the 2013/14 group stage with an Aleksandr Kerzhakov goal.

• They also won 4-1 at FC Paços de Ferreira in that season's play-offs first leg (8-3 on aggregate).

Coach and player links
• Villas-Boas faced Benfica on seven occasions while coach at Porto and A. Académica de Coimbra, winning four matches and losing three.

• Hulk scored five goals in 12 appearances (W6 D3 L3) against Benfica while at Porto between 2008 and 2012.

• Club team-mates:
Mehdi Carcela-González, Oleg Shatov and Mikhail Kerzhakov (Anji);
Carcela-González and Witsel (R. Standard de Liège);
Eliseu and Neto (Varzim SC).

• International team-mates:
Júlio César, Luisão, Jonas & Hulk (Brazil);
Lisandro López, Nicolás Gaitán, Eduardo Salvio & Ezequiel Garay (Argentina);
Eliseu, Sílvio, Nélson Semedo, Gonçalo Guedes, Pizzi, André Almeida & Luís Neto and Danny (Portugal).

• Luís Neto played in Portugal for Varzim and CD Nacional.

Match facts

• Luisão, Gonçalo Guedes, Jardel and André Almeida are a booking away from a ban.

• Benfica have won 12 of their 14 fixtures since losing to Atlético on matchday six. However, their 11-game winning run ended on Friday when they were beaten 2-1 at home by Porto.

• The Eagles have scored four or more goals in a game on six occasions during that run.

• Kostas Mitroglou has managed eight goals in his last seven outings in all competitions. The Greece forward scored a hat-trick in the 5-0 triumph at Os Belenenses on 5 February.

• With 23 Liga goals to his name this term, Jonas is second in the ESM Golden Shoe table behind SSC Napoli's Gonzalo Higuaín (24 goals).

• Benfica will face SC Braga in the Portuguese League Cup semi-finals on an as yet unknown date. The Lisbon side topped Group B with three wins in as many matches.

• Luisão (out since 21 November, broken left arm) suffered a setback in training and underwent surgery on the injury for a second time on 8 February.

• Eduardo Salvio, who had a right knee operation on 9 September, came on for the final ten minutes on Friday – his first appearance since 23 May. Ljubomir Fejsa (thigh) and Lisandro López (thigh) are doubtful.

UEFA Champions League squad changes
• In: Alejandro Grimaldo (FC Barcelona B), Luka Jović (FK Crvena zvezda), Eduardo Salvio
• Out: Bilal Ould-Chikh, Bryan Cristante (US Città di Palermo, loan), Victor Andrade (Vitória SC, loan)

• Danny, Domenico Criscito, Javi García, Hulk and Artur Yusupov will incur a suspension with their next booking.

• Zenit have not played a competitive game since the 2-1 loss to Gent on matchday six.

• Villas-Boas's squad have had training camps in Qatar and Portugal during the Russian winter break:

Friendly results
17 January: v Lekhwiya SC W2-1
21 January v El Jaish SC W4-1
24 January: v Armed Forces Qatar W3-0
1 February: v Brøndby IF W2-0
4 February: v IFK Norrköping W3-2
7 February: v Örebro SK 1-1 (W4-3 on penalties)

• Zenit concluded their preparations for the Benfica tie with a training camp, which started on 10 February, in southern Spain.

UEFA Champions League squad changes
• In: Yuri Zhirkov (FC Dinamo Moskva), Aleksandr Kokorin (FC Dinamo Moskva), Maurício (FC Terek Grozny)
• Out: none