Zenit got the better of Villarreal in 2007/08 and will be looking for a repeat performance this season.
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Frequent visitors to the UEFA Europa League knockout phase, Zenit welcome Villarreal hoping to continue their remarkable run of results in St Petersburg.
• 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.
• 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 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.
• Zenit have drawn six of their 11 home fixtures against Spanish visitors, winning four, including the last two. They have lost three of their four two-legged ties against Spanish opposition, however, 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.
• Despite a flawless record at home to Russian clubs Villarreal have yet to win in four visits to Russia (D2 L2), though they managed a last-gasp equaliser, a Santi Cazorla penalty, to draw 3-3 on their most recent visit, at Spartak on matchday two.
• 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 Sardar 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 record in St Petersburg at this stage is W3 D1.
• Zenit have never lost at home in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final, winning 21 of their 23 matches in St Petersburg. Furthermore, they have a 100% success rate at home in Europe this term with six wins out of six, scoring 18 goals and conceding four.
• 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 at Spartak, Rapid Wien (0-0) and Rangers (0-0) and picking up seven points at home. 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 lost only one of their last 12 UEFA Europa League away matches (W4 D7) – against Lyon in last season's round of 32 (1-3). Their away record overall in the competition's knockout phase is W6 D3 L5.
Links and trivia
• Zenit's Claudio Marchisio and Villarreal's Daniele Bonera have both played for Italy and faced each other several times while at Juventus and AC Milan 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; Vicente Iborra was also in the Sevilla side.
• Bacca 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.
• Zenit's run of 23 home fixtures in the UEFA Europa League proper without defeat is a competition record.
• 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 32, alongside Chelsea and Eintracht Frankfurt.
• Villarreal have played more games than any other club in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final (70), and share with Salzburg the record for the most goals scored (118).
• 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.
• Zenit returned from their domestic winter break last weekend and won 1-0 at Ural with a goal from Azmoun on his league debut for the club. The victory stretched their lead at the top of the table over fellow UEFA Europa League participants Krasnodar to three points.
• Villarreal are in the Spanish Liga relegation zone, in 18th place, after losing 1-2 at home to Alavés on Saturday.
• 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.
• 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.