Zenit v Torino preview

FC Zenit will seek to make it through the round of 16 for the first time since winning this competition in 2008, but can expect a tough home tussle with Torino FC.

Zenit's Domenico Criscito could come up against a number of former team-mates
Zenit's Domenico Criscito could come up against a number of former team-mates ©AFP/Getty Images

FC Zenit will hope for an improvement in their home form against Italian clubs as they welcome Torino FC looking to make the next step towards the UEFA Europa League final in Warsaw.

What they say
André Villas-Boas, Zenit coach: "I like the style Ventura imposes: compact, play the pass, good organisation in midfield, defensive coordination, rapid transition to attack. It's impossible to assess Torino's level based on one match with Udinese; a few mistakes don't mean anything. It's difficult to predict what Ventura will come up with, he's a great coach. You need to make decisions during the game, so nothing can be 100% predicted. Our team is very well prepared."

Torino coach Giampiero Ventura: "We talked with [former Zenit coach Luciano] Spalletti ten days ago; we spoke about Zenit of course, but I didn't get clear clear instructions on how to play against them. Zenit are stronger than Athletic. They are first in the league, and have a powerful lineup. For us it will be an important test, for each player and me as a coach. It will test reliability, concentration, and everything else. I have great respect for Zenit, but if we show our best football, we can succeed."

Previous meetings
• The sides are meeting for the first time in UEFA competition.

Zenit have won only one of their four home games against Italian clubs – 1-0 against Udinese Calcio – and even that was a disappointment; they had lost the first leg of that 2008/09 UEFA Europa League round of 16 tie 2-0.

Torino lost 2-1 on aggregate to FC Dinamo Moskva in the 1992/93 UEFA Cup second round, their only previous tie against Russian opponents. The winning goal in their 2-1 home loss to Dinamo was scored by Igor Simutenkov – who is one of André-Villas Boas's coaching assistants at Zenit. Simutenkov played in Italy with AC Reggiana (1994–98) and Bologna FC (1998–99).

Form guide
Zenit have conceded in only one of their six European home games this term (W4 D1 L1) – a 2-1 defeat against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League.

Zenit's home record in this competition is fearsome; they are unbeaten in their last 12 UEFA Europa League games in Russia (W11 D1).

Torino have lost just once in 12 UEFA Europa League games this season (2-1 at HJK Helsinki in the group stage), and have scored eight in their last two away games – a 5-1 win at FC København and a 3-2 victory at Athletic Club.

Zenit have not progressed beyond the last 16 of a UEFA competition since they won the UEFA Cup in 2008, beating Rangers FC 2-0 in the final. Then they beat Olympique de Marseille in the last 16.

Torino's round of 32 success against Athletic was their first success in a springtime UEFA competition tie since they overcame Real Madrid CF to reach the 1991/92 UEFA Cup final – where they lost to AFC Ajax on away goals.

Trivia and links
Zenit's Italian defender Domenico Criscito played alongside's Torino's Cristian Molinaro at Juventus (2007), and was a Genoa CFC team-mate of both Cesare Bovo (2008) and Emiliano Moretti (2009–11).

Zenit's Portuguese defender Luís Neto also played in Italy, representing AC Siena in 2012/13 before moving to Russia.

Torino striker Maxi López scored ten Russian Premier League goals for FC Moskva from 2007–08. He failed to score in two games against Zenit, and was on the losing side in both.

Zenit and AFC Ajax both got through their first UEFA Europa League ties of the season without conceding, but five of the eight sides who transferred from the UEFA Champions League group stage were eliminated in the round of 32.

Torino are one of only three sides left in the competition who started their campaign in the third qualifying round, along with Club Brugge KV and FC Dinamo Moskva.

Zenit (2008) are one of five former UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League winners along with SSC Napoli (1989), FC Internazionale Milano (1991, 1994, 1998), Ajax (1992), and holders Sevilla FC (2006, 2007, 2014).

Torino's Kamil Glik is one of six Polish nationals left in the competition who still have the chance of a dramatic homecoming when the UEFA Europa League final takes place in Warsaw on 27 May.

Torino are one of five Italian clubs in the round of 16; only once before has one nation been represented by so many sides at this stage, West Germany having provided five contenders in the 1979/80 UEFA Cup.

The coaches
• Having joined FC Porto's coaching department in his teens after a debate with the club's then coach Sir Bobby Robson, Zenit's André Villas-Boas assisted José Mourinho and spent a season in charge at A. Académica de Coimbra before winning a Liga, Portuguese Cup and UEFA Europa League treble with Porto in 2010/11. He then coached Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC, taking over at Zenit in March 2014.

• Villas-Boas (Porto 2011) is one of three coaches involved in the round of 16 who have won the UEFA Europa League since the competition took on its current incarnation, along with SSC Napoli's Rafael Benítez (Chelsea 2013) and Sevilla FC's Unai Emery (Sevilla 2014).

• Giampiero Ventura led Torino back to Serie A after taking charge in 2011, and is now enjoying – at the age of 67 – his first campaign in Europe. Previously a player at UC Sampdoria, he once guided US Lecce from Serie C to Serie A, and also oversaw promotion to the top tier with Cagliari Calcio as well as winning a club-record 50 Serie A points with AS Bari in 2009/10.

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