Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg will host Benfica of Portugal on Feb. 15 in the first leg of their Champions League tie. This will be first time these two clubs have ever met and they both go into the game with long undefeated streaks on the line. Benfica hasn’t lost a game in league play this year with 15 wins and three draws and are on an 11 game winning streak in all competitions. They’re on top of the Portuguese League by five points over Porto.
Zenit has gone 15 games since they last lost which was 2-1 defeat to Apoel Nicosia in their group stage opener. They’ve never lost to a Portuguese team at home yet. However, they could be a bit rusty since they haven’t played since early December due to the winter break in the Russian League, which they’re the leaders of.
Zenit’s Italian manger Spaletti has the team playing well defensively at home and they only let one goal in at home during the group stage. They’ll also be more used to the cold weather as it’s been well below freezing in Russia this winter. They’ll be depending on Kerzhakov to lead the way in attack.
Benfica manager Jorge Jesus knows the conditions will be tough and wants to keep the game as close as possible. Saviola and Aimar have been playing well for the team and Oscar Cardoza has been enjoying an excellent season so far with 20 goals on the season and 11 in his last 10 contests. Rodrigo has added 13 goals for the Portuguese leaders with five in the last four games.
Benfica’s scored at least one goal in each of their past 38 games. The last time they were shutout was last season in a semi-final Europa League game when they were beaten 1-0 by fellow Portuguese club Sporting Braga. Benfica won three and drew three games in the group stage and were one of three teams that went undefeated during it. This will give them a lot of confidence going to Russia.
Zenit’s main scoring threat is striker Alexander Kerzhakov with 16 goals in 22 league games so far this season. However, Danny, the Portuguese playmaker may miss the game for the Russians as he has an injured knee. It’s also likely that Vyacheslav Malafeev and Domenico Criscito will miss the game for Zenit while Benfica might have to play without Jav.
The weather could be a big factor in this game and it might end up being a low-scoring affair. Benfica may keep their streak alive, but they might have to settle for a draw in this match.
Sportsbook William Hill has the odds of a Zenit St. Petersburg win at 8/5 with a Benfica victory at 9/5 and a draw at 21/10.