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Dundalk v Zenit background

Irish champions Dundalk have confounded expectations by taking four points from their opening two Group D games, but face their biggest challenge yet as they play Zenit.

Dundalk celebrate Ciaran Kilduff's matchday two winner against Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Dundalk celebrate Ciaran Kilduff's matchday two winner against Maccabi Tel-Aviv ©Sportsfile

Dundalk have set new marks for Irish clubs in both of their UEFA Europa League fixtures this season; can they make it three in a row as Zenit come calling in Group D on matchday three?

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

• Only six games have been played between Russian and Irish teams in UEFA club competition, with the Russians winning five to the Irish representatives' one.

• Dublin outfit Shamrock Rovers lost 3-0 at home and 4-1 away against Rubin Kazan in their pioneering 2011/12 UEFA Europa League campaign.

Form guide
• Dundalk are unbeaten in Group D (W1 D1) and have won both of their previous European matches at Tallaght Stadium without conceding (their 2-0 UEFA Champions League play-off loss to Legia Warszawa having come at the Dublin Arena).

• Dundalk are making their UEFA group stage debut. The lone Irish side to have previously graced a UEFA Europa League group stage were Shamrock Rovers, who lost all six of their fixtures in 2011/12.

• Having come from 3-0 down to win 4-3 at Maccabi Tel-Aviv on matchday one, Zenit then beat AZ Alkmaar 5-0 last time out; they are this group stage's top scorers with nine goals from two games.

• UEFA Cup winners in 2008, Zenit have progressed in three of their four previous UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League group campaigns. In 2010/11 they won all six matches.

Links and trivia
• The journey from St Petersburg to Dublin, where Dundalk are playing their European home games, is about 2,300km.

• Dundalk have already recorded two Irish firsts this term: their 1-1 draw at AZ Alkmaar was the first point gained by an Irish team at this level, while their 1-0 triumph over Maccabi Tel-Aviv was the maiden Irish victory at this level.

• Krasnodar's Joãozinho, Genk's Leon Bailey and Zenit's Aleksandr Kokorin are the leading marksmen in the group stage after matchday two with three goals each.

• Zenit's Brazilian schemer Giuliano has been credited with four assists in the current group stage, one more than his nearest rival, Roma's Francesco Totti. Giulliano has also scored twice, meaning he has contributed to six goals in total – two more than any other player.

The coaches
• Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny started his managerial career with Longford Town, aged 27, and landed a league title with Bohemians in 2002/03, aged 32. Hired by Dundalk in 2013, he steered the club to Irish championships in 2014 and 2015.

• Mircea Lucescu took charge of Zenit this summer, the 71-year-old Romanian ending a 12-year spell at Shakhtar Donetsk in which he picked up eight Ukrainian titles and the 2008/09 UEFA Cup. He previously won Turkish championships with Beşiktaş and Galatasaray.

• Lucescu is the most experienced coach in the 2016/17 competition; this will be his 217th UEFA club fixture.