Next Tuesday, 16th of September 2014, the Portuguese champions SL Benfica will entertain the Russian millionaires of Zenit Saint Petersburg at Estádio da Luz for the both sides’ opening match for the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League.
After losing some important players during the Summer transfer window and after a fairly unconvincing pre-season campaign, SL Benfica seem to have found the right path once more. Last Friday, the historical Lisbon team hammered Vitória de Setúbal at Estádio do Bonfim by 5-0 and granted the third win of the season. Jorge Jesus, who expressed his frustration on several occasions after losing some of the team’s most influential players, has somehow managed to rebuild his team once again, as they seem to be considerably improving over the recent couple of matches.
The Portuguese manager returned to his personal 4-4-2 variation, with two fairly versatile players up front. The Brazilian striker Lima is the team’s current poacher and, although he is not a typical centre forward, he performs the task efficiently. His partner up front is the Argentinian playmaker Nico Gaitán, whose superb passing and vision skills allow him to act as an old school number 10 feeding the team’s lone ranger in a very reliable manner.
For the match against Zenit, Jorge Jesus will not be able to rely on the contribution of the fullback Silvio, who is currently sidelined due to injury, and on André Almeida, who is suspended.
As for Zenit, the Russian team arrives at Lisbon with a renewed sense of optimism after having won their last official ten matches. André Villas-Boas has been performing a fantastic job with Zenit and he will certainly want to continue his team’s winning streak on the match that will mark his return to Portugal, after the successful season he spent with FC Porto.
Over the weekend, Zenit defeated Dynamo Moscow at Petrovsky 3-2, on a match where Andrei Arshavin appeared at the starting line-up once again after a particularly long absence. The former Russian wonderkid put up a quality performance and netted in his team’s second goal after an assist from Hulk. With that win, Zenit has somewhat avenged last season’s home defeat that cost them the Russian Premier League title and cemented their position at the top of the table.
For the match at Estádio da Luz, André Villas-Boas will not be able to count on Fayzulin, who currently suspended, and he is not yet certain if the powerful Brazilian forward Hulk will recover in time for the match since, he was forced to go to the hospital after the match against Dynamo due to a huge blow he suffered to the head.
Benfica vs Zenit Prediction
Next Tuesday’s match at Estádio da Luz will mark the re-encounter between two old rivals that appear to be in fact to good friends, but such friendship will certainly be put momentarily aside during the 90 minutes of the clash, for which there are no favourites. This being said, the most likely outcome is a 1-1 draw.
SL Benfica (4-4-2) – Artur – Maxi Pereira – Jardel – Luisão – Eliseu – Talisca – Samaris – Pérez – Salvio – Gaitán – Lima
Zenit St. Petersburg (4-3-3) – Lodygin – Anyukov – Garay – Lombaerts – Criscito – Javi Garcia – Witsel – Shatov – Danny – Hulk – Rondon
Benfica vs Zenit Television
The Benfica vs Zenit match will be televised on ESPN 3 at 11:45 AM Pacific on Tuesday.