Zenit will host Benfica at the Krestovsky Stadium in the Champions League on Wednesday.
After three straight seasons in the Europa League, Zenit are back in the Champions League. Aside from Benfica, their group consists of Lyon and Leipzig. All four sides must be garnering hopes of making it to the knockout rounds. Zenit traveled to France to face Lyon in their first group stage game. Sardar Azmoun gave them the lead in the first half, but Memphis Depay equalised in the second half for Lyon. The home side had more shots and ball possession, but Zenit got the point to their credit.Embed from Getty Images
Zenit made the round of 16 in their last Champions League campaign. Coincidentally Benfica were their opponents then, and the Portuguese side claimed a 3-1 win on aggregate. On the domestic stage, Zenit are the defending champions. They won the Russian Premier League by eight points to claim their first league title since 2015. Zenit are in the hunt to retain their crown this season.
After eleven league games, they are in fifth place, just two points below leaders CSKA Moscow. Zenit faced Lokomotiv Moscow on Saturday, and they were on an eight-match unbeaten run going into the game. But Lokomotiv claimed a 1-0 win to end that streak. Despite the loss, Sergei Samak’s men are unbeaten on their own patch this season. They have drawn two games at home, winning all the others. Their home record will give great confidence ahead of the Benfica clash.
Unlike Zenit, Benfica’s first game of the Champions League ended in a loss. They hosted RB Leipzig at the Estadio da Luz in the first week. A brace from Timo Werner handed the German side a 2-1 win. Haris Seferovic scored a late consolation for Benfica. They will hope to get their first points on the board in Russia. Benfica played in the Europa League last season after five consecutive seasons in the top tier. Eintracht Frankfurt knocked them out in the quarter-finals.Embed from Getty Images
Against Leipzig, Benfica had seven shots on target compared to just three from the hosts. But Leipzig were more clinical in the game. Benfica have been great in the Primeira Liga as they attempt to defend their title. They have 18 points from seven games and lie in second place. Surprise package Familicao lead the way, and they have one point more than Benfica.
Benfica and Zenit have met each other six times since 2012. Benfica were 4-3 winners on aggregate to progress to the quarter-final in 2012. They met in the group stage in 2014 when Zenit won both the games. In 2014, Benfica won the round of 16 clash again to knock Zenit out.
Zenit St. Petersburg vs Benfica Prediction
Zenit will be the favorites this time, and they should preserve their unbeaten home record. It will be a tight game, and the total goals should be Under 2.5. Both sides have strong defensive numbers, but Zenit seem likely to claim a narrow win.