Zenit St Petersburg host Group H leaders Juventus for their next UEFA Champions League clash on Wednesday evening. The Italians have a perfect record in the competition to this point, whilst their visitors sit third in the group with one win and one loss.
Zenit are coming off a 2-1 loss against Arsenal Tula in the Russian Premier League. The Russians are third in the group, with three points from two matches. Juventus have won both their games in the competition so far, and have six points from two matches as a result. They defeated Chelsea 1-0 in their last Champions League game and are coming off a 1-0 win against Jose Mourinho’s Roma in the league.
Zenit inflicted an embarrassing 4-0 loss upon Malmo in their last game in Europe and would like to keep themselves in contention for the knockout places with a positive result against the Italians on Wednesday.
Zenit completely dominated the game against Malmo and attempted a whopping 22 shots on goal. Out of the 22 they had seven shots on target and most of these shots were from inside the penalty area. If Zenit are given the space, they can create a great deal of opportunities and find the breakthrough. Zenit have scored 23 goals from 11 games in the Russian Premier League and have three players with five goals in their domestic league.
Zenit centre back, Rakitskyi, has attempted the most number of through passes in the Champions League. He has also played a high number of long balls which indicates that Zenit attempt more passes into the final third from their own half and use the physical strength of striker Artem Dzyuba, who can receive these long balls and play it on to his wide forwards. Sardar Azmoun has also been one of Zenit’s best player this season. He missed Zenit’s 2-1 loss to Arsenal Tula through suspension, but is available and will return to lead the line on Wednesday.
Allegri’s men have overcome a difficult start to the season and are now steadily establishing themselves as strong opponents. While Juventus still have some days to go before being considered genuine challengers, they have shown the knack to get results over the line. The Old Lady go into the game on the back of an eight-match unbeaten streak. Juventus have staked their claim on top spot after a perfect start in which they have beaten the tournament holders and not conceded a goal. Two points from their opening four Serie A games was a troubling start for Juve, but since then they have won every game they have played.
Juve beat Chelsea in the previous gameweek and claimed top spot. Cuadrado and Bernadeschi had the highest xT from the passes they played in the opposition half while Kean and Chiesa had the highest xT from dribbles. Juventus created a lesser number of opportunities than Chelsea but were effective in front of goal. Their centre back pairing of Chiellini and Bonucci will have to deal with the long balls and through passes that Zenit will attempt from their own half. Although they might not have the same speed as before but can use the precious experience they have to deal with such attacks.
Juventus have certainly improved in recent weeks and look formidable. However for Zenit, despite their blip in form, dominated Malmo and put up a real fight against Chelsea in the first two gameweeks. The Russians can not be underestimated and can prove to be a tough opposition to the Italians.
Zenit St Petersburg predicted starting lineup:
Kerzhakov, Barrios, Chistyakov, Rakitskyi, Sutormin, Kuzyaev, Wendel, Santos, Malcom, Azmoun, Claudinho.
Juventus predicted starting lineup:
Szczesny, Cuadrado, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro, Chiesa, Bentancur, Locatelli, Bernardeschi, Morata, Kean.