Preview: Zenit v Benfica

FC Zenit and SL Benfica are prepared for a potentially decisive meeting in Russia, coaches André Villas-Boas and Jorge Jesus accepting another defeat is unthinkable.

Benfica training in St Petersburg
Benfica training in St Petersburg ©AFP/Getty Images

André Villas-Boas says win is crucial for Zenit "to accomplish our goals"
Russian side have won only three of last seven games
Zenit beat Benfica 2-0 in Lisbon on matchday one
Jorge Jesus acknowledges Benfica must "be at our best"
Portuguese champions have won last four matches

Permutations: Zenit (4pts) v Benfica (4)
Zenit will be out if they lose and Monaco win. Zenit won away to Benfica so another victory will ensure at least a top-three finish.
Benfica will be out with a draw if Monaco win (because the best they could then hope for after matchday six is a three-way tie in which they could not possibly finish in the top two). Defeat eliminates Benfica from Europe outright if Monaco win.

Possible lineups
Zenit: Lodygin; Anyukov, Garay, Lombaerts, Criscito; Witsel, Javi García, Rondón, Shatov, Danny; Hulk.
Out: Kerzhakov (muscle)
Doubtful: Smolnikov (ankle)

Benfica: Júlio César; Maxi Pereira, Luisão, Jardel, André Almeida; Samaris, Enzo Pérez, Nico Gaitán, Eduardo Salvio; Anderson Talisca, Lima.
Out: Eliseu (foot)
Doubtful: none

André Villas-Boas, Zenit coach
[Saturday's] league win will have a positive impact on us. Benfica have played good football in their last few games. The coach will have prepared them well for this, I know Jorge Jesus, but I don't think we can expect dramatic changes compared with the first meeting. Each team's main goal is to win their [domestic] championship, and in this respect we're both well placed. Also, the clubs are both looking for an important success on the European stage.

When I was invited to coach Zenit, the club's owner set a task to build a team for greater achievements – so, besides the obvious goal of winning the championship, to be in the top ten European teams and to go as far as possible in the Champions League. We have all the tools and capabilities and it's important for us to win and get out of the group; that will be a development for the team. We must accomplish the goals that we set.

For Benfica and Zenit this will be a decisive game, both teams need to get points, both are very eager to win. This will be a difficult match in which anything could happen. We will make every effort to earn the three points.    

Jorge Jesus, Benfica coach
This game is crucial for us. We are level on four points with Zenit. Leverkusen, apparently, are already through. We know they are capable opponents, but I believe in our team and that we can win – the team is ready.

The weather is a small issue. The match is so important that other aspects of the game will be more significant: taking chances, teamwork, determination. The players must be at their best. The weather will not be the deciding factor in this game.

The players know this is a Champions League game. It is an honour for every player to play in this competition. Yes, me and Villas-Boas know each other – and the way each other's teams like to play – so we won't be able to spring many surprises, though anything can happen.

Weekend results
Zenit 1-0 FC Kuban Krasnodar (Hulk 37)
Benfica 4-1 Moreirense FC (Jonas 3 7, Salvio 22 57; Cardozo 26)

Form guide (all competitions)
Zenit: WLLWLW
Benfica: WWWWLD

Match facts
• Who came out on top when the sides met in the 2011/12 round of 16? Our match background has the answer.

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