The Champions League knockout stages kick off on Tuesday, with Benfica taking on Zenit St. Petersburg at the Estádio da Luz. It's certainly not a contest that will grab many of the neutrals, especially with Chelsea taking on Paris Saint-Germain simultaneously, though it has the potential to be one of the more closely fought encounters of the round. Benfica will be hoping to build on their recent good form, with their defeat to domestic rivals Porto last time out being their first since their last Champions League outing -- a 2-1 defeat at home to Atlético Madrid in December.
They just about appear to have the edge over Zenit, with André Villas-Boas' side having not enjoyed the best of domestic seasons so far. They're currently down in sixth place in the Russian top flight, seven points adrift of league leaders CSKA Moscow. There's also the small fact that Russia's extended winter break makes this their first competitive match since their Champions League defeat away at Belgian side Gent early in December. It may well take them a while to get back up to speed.
Key player: Renato Sanches (Benfica)
Benfica midfielder Renato Sanches has enjoyed a rapid rise to stardom, with the 18-year-old having already established himself as a regular in the Benfica first team. He only made his league debut at the start of the season, but he's already attracting interest from some of Europe's biggest clubs. Playing in a midfield two, his outstanding all-action game could prove decisive against Zenit. He's certainly one to watch.
These sides have met four times in the Champions League in the last four years. They clashed in the first knockout round in 2012, with Zenit winning a spectacular first leg 3-2 only to throw it all away with a 2-0 defeat in Lisbon. They exacted their revenge in the group stages two years later, winning 2-0 in Lisbon before recording another victory in front of their own fans a couple of months on.
Benfica injuries and suspensions
Out: Luisão (arm). In doubt: Ljubomir Fejsa, Lisandro López (thigh).
Zenit St Petersburg injuries and suspensions
Out: Viktor Fayzulin (knee); Vyacheslav Malafeev, Igor Smolnikov (unspecified). In doubt: Aleksandr Ryazantsev (unspecified).
Benfica will certainly be without Luisão, though will hope to have his fellow defender López and midfielder Fejsa back after thigh problems. Zenit's injury list is slightly longer: goalkeeper Malafeev is joined on the sidelines by defender Smolnikov and midfielder Fayzulin, while midfielder Ryazantsev is a strong doubt.
Match date/time: Tues., 2:45 p.m. ET, 7:45 p.m. local
Venue: Estádio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal
TV: FOX Sports 2 (US - English); FOX Deportes (US - Spanish); TSN, RDS (Canada); BT Sport 2 (UK)
Online: FOX Sports Go, FOX Soccer 2Go (US); BT Sport live streaming (UK)