It might not be the most attractive of the UEFA Champions League round 16 series, but Benfica and Zenit will look for a spot in the quarterfinals, when they meet this Tuesday, February 16 at the Estadio Da Luz at 20:45.
The first leg is always more important for the home team. They need to defend their Stadium, either with an aggressive approach or just trying to avoid any goals from the opponent.
Benfica got to this point by earning the second spot in group C, only behind Atletico Madrid. The Portuguese won three of their six games, drawing once and losing twice; scoring ten goals and allowing eight.
They enter this meeting after losing 1-2 to Porto during the weekend in the Primeira Liga derby. Benfica are currently in the second spot in the local tournament, only three points behind the league leaders, Sporting.
Benfica have a tied record when playing Russian teams. They have won five, drew four and lost another five in 14 meetings. When playing at home they have earned four wins and lost another two; including two seasons ago, when Zenit won at Estadio La Luz 2-0.
“It will be a tough game, completely different from two years ago – that was a Champions League group stage match, now it’s the round of 16. The stadium will be full and I expect a good welcome from the Benfica fans. It will be our first competitive game of 2016 so we know it will be tough physically. We need to be ready and remember that there is a second leg in Saint Petersburg”, said Zenit midfielder Axel Witsel to the UEFA Media Channel.
The UEFA Champions League odds listed the home team as the favorites, paying 2.15 if Benfica wins this match. Zenit are 3.9 to get the victory, and the draw is at 3.3.
Zenit won group H with 15 points out of 18 possible only losing to Kaa Gent in the process. They scored 13 goals and allowed just six, one of the best marks in the group stage. Zenit knows visiting Portugal has been good to them; they have won each of their past three visits, with wins over Benfica, Porto and Pacos Ferreira.
However, the Russian Premier League is currently resting, and Zenit haven’t played a competitive match since early in December. They have been playing friendly games and participating in the Atlantic Cup, which are no near as intense as the RPL of the Champions League.
Benfica and Zenit will meet for the 5th time overall; the Russians have won three of the previous four matches since they met for the first time in 2012. The Portuguese only victory in the series came back in 2012.
The value of this game is in the draw, listed at 3.3. Zenit are a better team than Benfica, but the Russian haven’t played a meaningful game since December. Take the draw.