Zenit St. Petersburg v Benfica – Petrovsky Stadium at 17:00 live on BT Sport Europe
Zenit St. Petersburg head into their 2nd leg last 16 tie with Benfica tomorrow night a goal down, having conceded in the 91st minute at the Estadio da Luz 3 weeks ago.
Having won their first 5 group matches, only losing the 6th to KAA Gent when top of the group was already assured, Zenit were great value on the Asian Handicap betting market +0.5 at 2.05 for the first leg. Conceding so late and failing to score an away goal would have been a big blow and now makes them 2.75 underdogs to qualify.
The match in Portugal was their first after a long Winter break and despite being rested, players were a little rusty. They have played 1 domestic match since the 1-0 loss, a 0-0 away draw with Krasnodar, but players looked a lot sharper and should be a lot closer to match fitness than 3 weeks ago.
Domestically things aren’t going great, winning just 3 of their last 13 league games, leaving them in 5th place, 9 points behind leaders CSKA.
With Andre Villas Boas leaving at the end of the season, this is a huge match for himself and the club. Zenit have never made it to the quarter finals of the Champions League, so to do so, may show that AVB has improved the club since taking over from Luciano Spalletti.
In contrast to Zenit, Benfica are currently top of their domestic lead with a 2 point cushion over rivals Sporting Lisbon and 6 ahead of FC Porto in 5th. They were made to work hard to qualify out of their group in the UCL however, but finished comfortably above Galatasaray in the end.
Gonçalves Oliveira’s late strike and Benfica’s strong defence in the 1st leg gives them a really good chance to go through and will progress with a draw. However, Russia is always a tough place to go and Zenit’s home form in Europe over the past few years has been excellent. And, although their league form has been below par this season, they won all 3 of their UCL group matches and are now unbeaten in 13 in all competitions at the Petrovsky.
I can’t see Benfica keeping a clean sheet again tomorrow night against the likes of Hulk and in-form Artem Dzyuba who has 6 goals in 7 Champions League appearances this campaign. There is some value in backing the hosts to qualify at 2.75 and I’m recommending Zenit -0.5 on the Asian Handicap betting market at 2.10.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Zenit St. Petersburg -0.5 at 2.10
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