A long break for a team may either be positive or negative for FC Zenit Saint Petersburg when they meet S.L. Benfica in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League that will be played at the Estadio da Luz in Portugal.
In the preview as reported in UEFA.com, Zenit last played during the group stage on December 9 wherein they lost 2-1 to KAA Genit but Zenit coach Andre Villas-Boas said that the long break was not a problem and they have worked hard over the last two months.
“Benfica have transformed themselves completely. They are playing well, winning, scoring lots of goals … I expect Benfica to be a bit angry about the Porto result and eager to get back to winning ways. We have worked very well and our aim is to grab a good result… Benfica plays down the flanks, they cross a lot and create many goal chances from wing play. They play with a high defence, taking risks with the offside trap and they look very sharp,” Villas-Boas said.
Possible lineup for Zenit for the match will feature Yuri Lodygin, Aleksander Anyukov, Ezequiel Garay, Nicolas Lombaerts, Domenico Criscito, Javi Garcia, Axel Witsel, Oleg Shantov, team captain Danny with Hulk and Artem Dzyuba.
On the other hand, S.L. Benfica aims to bounce back from its 2-1 loss in the hands of FC Porto in the Primeira Liga last February 13. According to Benfica boss Rui Victoria, the mixture of the team’s veteran and younger players proves to be their strong point, but will not be complacent when they face Zenit.
“No matter who the opponents are, Benfica aims to win. We’ll be up against a team of real quality, with quality players and a quality Portuguese coach. They have players that have been together for many years and some of them know Portuguese football very well. We are very happy to be in last 16 of Champions League, where we belong. They will be hard, strong opponents and now we’ll find out how competitive Zenit are,” Victoria added.
They will be playing without Julio Cesar, Andre Almeida, third captain Jardel, Victor Lindwelof, Eliseu, Andreas Samaris, Renato Sanchez, Pizzi, vice-captain Nicolas Gaitan, Konstantinos Mitroglou and Jonas. Team captain Luisao will not play due to a broken arm.
Photo Courtesy: Вячеслав Евдокимов/Wikimedia