Benfica - Zenit Preview: Two teams in opposite form meet as Europe's premier club competitions resumes

It will be a clash of two teams in opposite form, as Benfica take on Zenit Saint Petersburg in the first leg of the Round of 16 in the Champions League.

Benfica - Zenit Preview: Two teams in opposite form meet as Europe's premier club competitions resumes
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Benfica and Zenit Saint Petersburg are both coming into this match in completely opposite form, but they'll have equal hunger when they meet in the Champions League on Teusday.

Benfica have opened up their 2016 account winning six of their first seven games, while Zenit have not played since December 9th, which was a 2-1 loss to Gent, and ended on a three game losing streak. But both will be motivated to make it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League as they meet in the Estadio de Luz


Despite their 2-1 loss to rivals FC Porto this weekend, Benfica are still in great form. They have taken 18 out of the possible 21 points to begin their 2016 in the Primeria Liga. Benfica currently sit 2nd in the league and are three points behind leaders Sporting Lisbon.

Benfica are also still in their domestic cup competition, as they are in the semi-finals of the Taca de Liga against Braga. Benfica also have to deal with their bitter rivals FC Porto catching up to them, as Porto are only three points behind Benfica after their win this weekend. If not for the heroics by Porto goalkeeper Iker Casillas, Benfica may have gotten an equaliser.

Benfica may feel that they have a great chance to advance considering they are facing a team like Zenit, not one of the giants in Europe.

While Benfica's form has been great, Zenit's has been sort of a mystery. Thanks to the long Russian winter break, Zenit's last game was a 2-1 loss to Gent in their final Champions League group stage game. It wasn't a great showing by the Russian side who are struggling domestically as well. Right now, Zenit sit 6th in the Russian Football Premier League, which is shocking for a team like themselves.

They are seven points behind leaders CSKA Moscow, and need to pick up their form if they want a shot at qualifying for Europe domestically. This will be their first game in over two months, and we may see a really sluggish team show up in the first leg. 

Team news

Benfica striker Lisandro Lopez is doubtful for this clash with a thigh injury but is expected to make the bench at least. 

Two new signings for Zenit may make their debut in the Champions League. Alexander Kokorin and winger Yuri Zhirkov were signed by the Russian giants recently, and might get their first chance to shine.

It will be interesting to see if Zenit line up Kokorin, who is the lead striker for the Russian national team, alongside Hulk who is still one of the most dangerous forwards in Europe. 

What they're saying

"It will be a tough game," said Zenit midfielder and Belgian internatinal Axel Witsel (via 

"I experienced a lot of nice things in Portugal so it's very special to go back," said Zenit centerback and former Benfica player Ezequiel Garay to (via ESPNFC) when asked about his time at his former club.