The business end of Champions League is about to begin. Carmine Bianco previews the Knockout Stage and it all begins with Benfica having to get past a Portuguese coach and three former players in the Zenit ranks as they bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in four years.
Benfica vs Zenit
How they got here:
Benfica finished 2nd in Group C behind Atletico Madrid (Spain) dropping their final game at home 2-1 to Atletico to drop out of first.
Zenit finished 1st in Group H winning their first 5 group matches before an away loss in their final game.
Benfica and Zenit have previous met 4 times is CL play with group stage play last season providing two of those meetings and Zenit came away victorious in both. 2-0 away at Benfica and a 1-0 home win.
Previous to that was a 2 leg affair in which Zenit came away with a 3-2 home win before Benfica secured the aggregate win with a 2-0 defeat of Zenit on home ground.
Benfica: Since that home loss to Atletico Madrid, Benfica have gone on to win 9 of their 10 matches with a draw in the other. Note: They’ll play an equally important domestic league match at home a couple days prior with Porto who sit tied with Benfica in 2nd.
Zenit: Currently sit in 6th in the Russian Premier league which is currently on break for two months.
Zenit have played only 1 match since the match day 6 loss to Gent and that was a club friendly victory 4-1. They’ll play 2 more matches in Atlantic Cup play before facing Benfica so match fitness must be
Odds: To Advance — Zenit -119 Benfica +106
Odds: Leg 1 in Lisbon — Benfica +122 Draw +235 Zenit +300
The viewpoint in this corner is that although Zenit will enter this 2 legged affair with only a handful of competitive games they will have the 2nd leg at home which has been a difficult venue for visiting squads and the fact that they have traveled well this season and with some previous success in Portugal they should head home from Lisbon in good position to advance to the quarter finals.
We’ll take Zenit to advance at -119 as well as a Leg 1 draw at +235
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