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Benfica bid to hold off Zenit

Defending a 1-0 lead, Benfica will once again face a Zenit side with a sizeable Portuguese contingent as they bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in four years.

Background: Zenit v Benfica ©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.

• The Portuguese club hold a slender lead in the tie thanks to an added-time Jonas strike in the Lisbon first leg.

Previous meetings
Zenit beat Benfica 1-0 at home in the 2014/15 group stage with Danny, who began his career with CS Marítimo and Sporting Clube de Portugal, scoring the goal. 

• Former Benfica players Javi García (2009–13), Axel Witsel (2011–12) and Ezequiel Garay (2011–14) were also in the Zenit team.

• The lineups in St Petersburg on 26 November 2014 were:
Zenit: Lodygin, Anyukov, Garay, Lombaerts (Luís Neto 23), Criscito, Javi García (Fayzulin 58), Witsel, Ryazantsev (Shatov 65), Hulk, Rondón, Danny.
Benfica: Júlio César, Maxi Pereira, Luisão, Jardel, André Almeida, Samaris (John 82), Pérez, Salvio, Talisca (Derley 70), Gaitán, Lima.

• Zenit had earlier won 2-0 in Lisbon courtesy of early goals from Witsel and Hulk, formerly with Porto. The home side had goalkeeper Artur sent off after 18 minutes.

• 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 Stadion Petrovski on 15 February 2012 were:
Zenit: Zhevnov, Anyukov, Bruno Alves, Lombaerts, Hubočan, Denisov, Kanunnikov (Bystrov 66), Shirokov, Zyryanov (Semak 46), Fayzulin (Rosina 89), Kerzhakov.
Benfica: Artur, Maxi Pereira, Luisão, Garay, Emerson, Matić, Gaitán (Miguel Vítor 90), Witsel, Bruno César (Nolito 76), Rodrigo (Aimar 30), Cardozo.

• Roman Shirokov scored twice with Sergei Semak also on target for the home team, while Maxi Pereira and Óscar Cardozo replied for Benfica.

Match background

• Defeat on matchday six at KAA Gent prevented the Russian champions from becoming only the sixth club to win 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 Gent at the head of Group H.

• At home, Zenit beat Gent 2-1, Olympique Lyonnais 3-1 and Valencia CF 2-0.

• They have never lost at home to visitors from Portugal, their record reading W5 D2 L0.

• In the 2013/14 group stage, Zenit drew 1-1 at home against Porto, Hulk scoring their goal. That came after they also beat FC Paços de Ferreira 4-2 at home (for an 8-3 aggregate victory) in the play-offs.

• Zenit have lost eight and won four of the 12 UEFA competition ties in which they lost the away first leg. However, on the only previous occasion they lost the away first leg 1-0 – against AEL Limassol FC in the 2014/15 third qualifying round – they subsequently won 3-0 at home.

• Zenit have never been involved in a UEFA competition shoot-out.

• The Eagles' only victory in seven attempts in Russia came in October 1996, 3-2 at FC Lokomotiv Moskva in the second leg of a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup second-round tie. João Pinto, scorer of the only goal in the first leg, struck the winner with three minutes left.

• Benfica have lost four of those seven games (the last four trips) and drawn two.

• Overall, their record against Russian clubs reads W6 D4 L5.

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

• The 1961 and 1962 European champions finished second in Group C on ten points, three behind Club Atlético de Madrid. Away from home, they beat the Spanish side 2-1, lost at Galatasaray AŞ by the same score and drew 2-2 away to FC Astana. 

• When winning the first leg of a UEFA competition tie, Benfica have progressed 46 times, losing only eight ties. Their record is even stronger when the first game finishes 1-0; they have won 11 such ties and lost only one, against RSC Anderlecht in the 2004/05 third qualifying round, when they went down 3-0 away.

• Benfica's record in UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W1 L2:
5-6 (neutral) v PSV Eindhoven, 1987/88 European Champion Clubs' Cup final
4-1 (home) v PAOK, 1999/2000 UEFA Cup second round
2-4 (neutral) v Sevilla FC, 2013/14 UEFA Europa League final

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 Luís 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

• Javi García and Domenico Criscito are serving one-match suspensions.

• Winter signing Maurício scored a free-kick in extra time as Zenit defeated FC Kuban Krasnodar 1-0 in the Russian Cup quarter-finals on 28 February.

• Zenit returned to Premier-Liga action after the winter break with a 0-0 draw against FC Krasnodar on Saturday.

• On 24 February, Zenit loaned Aleksandr Ryazantsev to FC Ural Sverdlovsk Oblast until the end of the season.

• André Almeida and Jardel are serving one-match bans. Luisão, Gonçalo Guedes and Jonas are a booking away from a suspension.

• Benfica have won 15 of their last 16 games in all competitions, the exception being the 2-1 home loss to Porto on 12 February.

• The Eagles beat Sporting CP 1-0 on Saturday to replace their opponents at the Portuguese Liga summit.

• Alejandro Grimaldo made his first start for Benfica on 29 February, deputising for Eliseu in the 2-0 victory over CF União da Madeira.

• 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.

• Júlio César picked up an injury to his right thigh in training on Saturday and missed the Sporting game.