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Villarreal v Zenit background

Having ended Zenit's unbeaten home UEFA Europa League record, Villarreal will look to finish the job back in Spain.

Villarreal celebrate their victory at Zenit
Villarreal celebrate their victory at Zenit ©AFP/Getty Images

Villarreal ended one of the UEFA Europa League's most enduring records in the first leg of this round of 16 tie when they became the first team to beat competition regulars Zenit in St Petersburg, the Spanish club's 3-1 win – the only away victory in the round of 16 first legs – putting them in a strong position to reach the quarter-finals for the third time.

• Villarreal progressed undefeated from a highly competitive Group G, drawing four times and winning twice, latterly with a 2-0 win at home against Spartak Moskva that sealed their qualification for the knockout phase for a fifth successive season. They maintained their unbeaten run with a 2-1 aggregate success against Sporting CP in the round of 32 (1-0 away, 1-1 home).

• Zenit sealed their round of 32 berth with a match to spare, nine of the 11 points that enabled them to top Group C being registered at home. They then came back from a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Fenerbahçe to eliminate the Turkish club with a 3-1 home win.

Highlights: Zenit 1-3 Villarreal

Previous meetings
• Zenit's record run of 23 UEFA Europa League games without defeat came to a halt in the first leg as goals from Vicente Iborra, Gerard Moreno and Manu Morlanes gave Villarreal a famous win in St Petersburg, Sardar Azmoun's third goal in two European games proving only a consolation for the hosts.

• Zenit and Villarreal both posted home wins when they were paired together in the 2007/08 UEFA Cup round of 32, but it was the Russian side who progressed on away goals (1-0 home, 1-2 away) thanks to a goal in each leg from Pavel Pogrebnyak. Zenit went on to lift the trophy.

• The group stage win against Spartak extended Villarreal's flawless record at home to Russian clubs to four wins out of four. That goal by Pogrebnyak is the only one they have conceded in those games.

• Zenit lost their first six UEFA games in Spain but have won the last two, most recently defeating Real Sociedad 3-1 in San Sebastian on matchday six last season. They have lost three of their four two-legged ties against Spanish opposition, including UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League quarter-finals against eventual winners Sevilla in 2005/06 and 2014/15; that 2008 defeat of Villarreal is their only success.

#UEL round of 16 first legs: Best goals

Form guide
• Villarreal finished fifth in the 2017/18 Spanish Liga to qualify for Europe for the fifth successive season, all of them featuring UEFA Europa League group stage participation and subsequent progress to the knockout phase.

• In total they have made seven UEFA Europa League group appearances and have never finished outside the top two. They topped their section for only the third time this term, drawing all three away games and picking up seven points at home, where they drew 2-2 with Rangers and overwhelmed Rapid Wien 5-0 before beating Spartak. Their best seasons in the competition were 2010/11 and 2015/16, when they reached the semi-finals.

• Villarreal are in the round of 16 for the fourth time, and have qualified two times out of three. The victories both came against Bayer Leverkusen, in 2010/11 (3-2 away, 2-1 home) and 2015/16 (2-0 home, 0-0 away), the sole defeat against fellow Spanish club Sevilla in 2014/15 (1-3 home, 1-2 away).

• Villarreal have won just five of their last 13 home fixtures in Europe, losing the same number. Prior to that sequence they had won seven in a row, conceding just one goal – all those games coming in the 2015/16 UEFA Europa League.

• On each of the eight occasions that Villarreal have won the first away leg of a European tie they have gone on to qualify, most recently against Sporting in the round of 32. The one previous time that they won away in the first leg 3-1, they went on to defeat Dutch side NAC Breda 9-2 on aggregate in the 2019/10 UEFA Europa League play-offs after a second-leg 6-1 win that remains their joint biggest in Europe.

Zenit's Artem Dzyuba (left) takes on Vicente Iborra of Villarreal
Zenit's Artem Dzyuba (left) takes on Vicente Iborra of Villarreal©AFP/Getty Images

• Fifth in the 2017/18 Russian Premier League, Zenit's 12th successive European campaign began in the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round, where they staged an astonishing second-leg comeback against Dinamo Minsk in St Petersburg, winning 8-1 after extra time in response to a shock 4-0 first-leg defeat in Belarus. Their play-off victory over Molde was also a tight call, a 3-1 home win preceding a 2-1 loss in Norway.

• Zenit's third successive appearance in the UEFA Europa League group stage, and fourth in all, maintained their perfect record of qualifying for the knockout phase as section winners – a feat achieved for the first time in 2010/11. They defeated Slavia Praha, Bordeaux and København in St Petersburg, all by one-goal margins, and drew 1-1 in both Denmark and France, ceding their unbeaten record only on matchday six when, already through, they lost 2-0 at second-placed Slavia. A double from new January signing Azmoun on his first start for the club completed Zenit's comeback success against Fenerbahçe in the round of 32.

• This is the Russian side's record-equalling fifth appearance in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, tied with Benfica and Valencia. However, they have won only one of the four previous ties – against Torino in 2014/15 (2-0 home, 0-1 away). The defeats came against FC Twente in 2010/11 (0-3 away, 2-0 home), Basel in 2012/13 (0-2 away, 1-0 home) and Leipzig in 2017/18 (1-2 away, 1-1 home). Their have lost all four away fixtures at this stage, scoring just one goal.

• Zenit's 1-1 draw at København on matchday one ended a run of four successive European away defeats, but they are still without a win on the road in eight (D2 L6) since that 3-1 victory at Real Sociedad. In the UEFA Europa League knockout phase they have played 11 away fixtures and lost ten, the exception a 1-0 win at PSV Eindhoven in the 2014/15 round of 32. They have never scored more than one goal in the away leg of any springtime tie in this competition.

• Zenit have lost all four of the UEFA ties in which they were beaten in the first leg at home, most recently going out of the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League round of 16 to Borussia Dortmund 4-5 on aggregate despite a 2-1 second-leg win in Germany.

Pick of the saves from the last 16 first legs

Links and trivia 
• Villarreal's Daniele Bonera and Zenit's Claudio Marchisio have both played for Italy and faced each other several times while at AC Milan and Juventus respectively.

• Carlos Bacca was on target for Sevilla against Zenit in both legs of the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League quarter-final, which the Andalusian club won 4-3 on aggregate; Iborra was also in the Sevilla side.

• Bacca, who came off the bench to make his 50th UEFA club competition appearance in the first leg, is a Colombia team-mate of new Zenit signing Wílmar Barrios.

• Zenit's Argentinian trio of Emanuel Mammana, Matías Kranevitter and Sebastián Driussi are former River Plate team-mates of Villarreal's Ramiro Funes Mori.

• Kranevitter has played club football in Spain, appearing for Atlético Madrid (2015/16) and Sevilla (2016/17, loan) before joining Zenit.

• Zenit's six goals in the group stage ranked as the lowest number recorded by any of the 12 section winners. The only team to qualify with fewer goals were their Group C rivals Slavia Praha, who scored four.

• Villarreal are one of seven teams to have come through the UEFA Europa League group stage undefeated, and are now one of only three to have retained that status after the round of 16 first legs, alongside Chelsea and Eintracht Frankfurt.

• Villarreal have played more games than any other club in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final (71), and have also scored the most goals (121).

• Zenit are one of four clubs participating in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 for the second successive season, alongside Dynamo Kyiv, Arsenal and Salzburg.

Villarreal celebrate at Zenit
Villarreal celebrate at Zenit©AFP/Getty Images

Penalty shoot-outs
• Villarreal's record in two UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W2 L0:
4-3 v Torino, 2002 UEFA Intertoto Cup third round
3-1 v Atlético Madrid, 2004 UEFA Intertoto Cup final

• Zenit have yet to feature in a UEFA penalty shoot-out.

The coaches
• First appointed on 25 September 2017, Javier Calleja was reinstated as Villarreal's coach on 29 January – just 50 days after being dismissed and replaced by Luis García Plaza. He represented the club as a player from 1999 to 2006, having started out at academy level with Real Madrid, and returned as a youth coach in 2012/13 after hanging up his boots. He was coaching the B team, a position he had held for only a few weeks, when he was originally promoted to the top job. Villarreal finished fifth in the Liga in his first season in charge.

• Sergei Semak took over as Zenit's head coach in May 2018 after an impressive 18-month tenure at FC Ufa that led to the club's first ever European qualification. The former Russia international midfielder had previously worked as an assistant coach at Zenit after ending his playing career there. His peak years on the field came at CSKA Moskva, where he skippered the club to Russian league and cup triumphs, though he left for Paris Saint-Germain midway through the 2004/05 season in which the Moscow club won the UEFA Cup.