UEFA Champions League Preview: Atletico Madrid - Zenit St Petersburg
The hosts will be without the suspended Diego Costa as they look to avoid another defeat to a Russian side in European competition.
Atletico Madrid will be out to avoid repeating history against Zenit St Petersburg after being knocked out of Europe by a Russian side last season.
The Spanish club was beaten 2-1 on aggregate by Rubin Kazan in the last 32 of the Europa League last season, and it kicks off its Champions League campaign against Rubin's compatriots on Wednesday. Diego Simeone's men secured their spot in the Champions League after finishing third in La Liga last term, and they have started this season in fine form, with a 100 percent record from four games.
They meet a Zenit side which has also enjoyed an excellent start to the domestic season, with Saturday's 2-0 victory over Terek Grozny lifting the side to second in the Russian Premier League.
Despite losing Radamel Falcao to big-spending Monaco in the summer, Atletico still has a host of attacking talent to call upon. Chief among them is former Barcelona attacker David Villa, who boasts a wealth of experience in European competition that could prove vital; however, attacker Diego Costa starts his two-game ban and is unavailable.
Visiting Zenit did not travel well during last season's competition, losing four of five away matches, and it has not won in Spain in five previous attempts. The club does have a number of attacking options at its disposal, though.
Danny is among the key assets, with the Portuguese striker having scored six times in their last eight games. Coach Luciano Spalletti will also be hoping that Brazilian forward Hulk recovers from the hip injury that kept him out of action at the weekend.
Spalletti has been tipped as a possible replacement for Cesare Prandelli as Italy coach after the World Cup, but he insisted that he was enjoying the challenge in Russia.
"In St Petersburg I feel respected by an entire city, both as a sportsman and as a man," Spalletti said. "They helped me to work in the best possible circumstances, even during difficult moments, as the city, the fans and the club supported me.
"This is fundamental for me. I might be wrong, but I do everything with sentiment."
Top 3 Predictions
Atletico Madrid 2-1 Zenit
- 16.73 %
Atletico Madrid 3-1 Zenit
- 16.15 %
Atletico Madrid 2-0 Zenit
- 15 %
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Nov 26, 2013||Zenit 1 - Atletico Madrid 1|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Sep 18, 2013||Atletico Madrid 3 - Zenit 1|
|Dec 7, 2013||UE Sant Andreu 0 - Atletico Madrid 4||ESPC|
|Nov 30, 2013||Elche 0 - Atletico Madrid 2||LIGA|
|Nov 26, 2013||Zenit 1 - Atletico Madrid 1||UCL|
|Nov 23, 2013||Atletico Madrid 7 - Getafe 0||LIGA|
|Nov 10, 2013||Villarreal 1 - Atletico Madrid 1||LIGA|