Zenit v Benfica background

Despite occupying the bottom two places in Group C, FC Zenit and SL Benfica still harbour qualifying hopes although neither can afford another defeat.

Andreas Samaris (l) and Hulk tussle during the matchday one fixture
Andreas Samaris (l) and Hulk tussle during the matchday one fixture ©AFP/Getty Images

Only five points separate the four teams in Group C and both FC Zenit and SL Benfica still harbour qualifying hopes even though they trail leaders Bayer 04 Leverkusen by five points.

• The 16 September fixture in Lisbon proved a happy homecoming for Zenit's Portuguese coach André Villas-Boas and his three former Benfica players as Hulk and Axel Witsel scored in a 2-0 win.

Previous meetings
• Benfica beat Zenit 4-3 on aggregate in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League round of 16, overturning a 3-2 defeat in Russia with a 2-0 home victory.

• 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, 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

Zenit
• On matchday two Zenit drew 0-0 at home to Monaco before losing away (0-2) and home (1-2) against Leverkusen. 

• Zenit have never lost at home to visitors from Portugal, their record reading W4 D2 L0.

• In last year's group stage they drew 1-1 with FC Porto, Hulk scoring their goal. They also beat FC Paços de Ferreira 4-2 at home (for an 8-3 aggregate victory) in the 2013/14 play-offs. 

• The St Petersburg club are in their fifth group stage campaign and last season finished second with six points – the lowest total for a team progressing in UEFA Champions League history – to qualify for the knockout rounds for only the second time.

Benfica
• On matchday two Benfica lost 3-1 at Leverkusen and then drew 0-0 at Monaco. Their first victory in the section came in the return with the French side when Talisca scored the only goal late on. 

• Benfica's only victory in six attempts in Russia came in October 1996, 3-2 at FC Lokomotiv Moskva in the second leg of their 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. 

• They have lost three of those six games, drawing two.

• The Portuguese champions, European Cup winners in 1960/61 and 1961/62, are in their tenth UEFA Champions League group stage campaign. In only one of their last six campaigns (2011/12) have they qualified for the knockout rounds; on the other five occasions they finished third to move into the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League.

• After switching to the UEFA Europa League last season, the Eagles reached the final for the second successive year, drawing 0-0 with Sevilla FC in Turin but losing 4-2 on penalties.

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

• Witsel (2011–12), Ezequiel Garay (2011–14) and Javi García (2009–13) have all played for Benfica.

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

• Luís Neto (Varzim SC, CD Nacional) and Danny (CS Marítimo, Sporting Clube de Portugal) have also had spells in Portugal.

• Benfica's Rúben Amorim, Nélson Oliveira, Eliseu, Pizzi, André Almeida and Zenit's Luís Neto and Danny all play together for Portugal.

• Benfica's Lisandro, Nicolás Gaitán, Eduardo Salvio, Franco Jara, Enzo Pérez and Zenit's Ezquiel Garay are Argentina team-mates. Hulk and Júlio César play together for Brazil.

Match facts

Zenit
• Javi García is a yellow card away from a suspension.

• Hulk's first goal in five games was enough for Zenit to end a three-match losing run at home with a 1-0 win against FC Kuban Krasnodar on Saturday. With PFC CSKA Moskva losing, the St Petersburg outfit are now eight points clear at the summit.

• Villas-Boas's side's 13-match unbeaten Premier-Liga run ended when they lost 3-1 at home to FC Terek Grozny on 8 November.

• Nicolas Lombaerts scored his third international goal as Belgium defeated Iceland 3-1 in a friendly on 12 November.

• Aleksandr Kerzhakov – Russia's all-time top scorer – was on target in Fabio Capello's team's 2-1 friendly win in Hungary six days later.

• Yuri Lodygin was named Zenit's player of the month for October following a poll on the club website.

Benfica
• Lisandro completes a two-game ban on matchday five. Salvio, Pérez and Andreas Samaris are all a booking away from a suspension.

• Holders Benfica booked a place in the Portuguese Cup round of 16 with a 4-1 home win against FC Moreirense on Saturday.

• Ola John featured on Saturday on his return from a muscle injury that has kept him out since 18 October.

• Jonas, not in Benfica's UEFA Champions League squad, scored twice against Moreirense having struck the winner on 9 November as the Eagles prevailed 2-1 at CD Nacional. Jorge Jesus's men had fallen behind in the first minute.

• Benfica are unbeaten at home in the Liga since a 3-2 loss to FC Porto on 2 March 2012.

• Amorim (knee) and Sílvio (leg) remain sidelined.

• Talisca, the eight-goal top scorer in the Portuguese Liga, was called up to the Brazil squad for their friendlies against Turkey and Austria but did not play.

• Gaitán (June 2018) and Almeida (June 2019) extended their contracts earlier this month.

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