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Zenit v Gent: History favours the Russians

Having overcome Valencia in their opening Group H game, Zenit will be expecting to take another step towards the Champions League knockout stages at home to Gent.

Andre Villas-Boas, who is serving a six-match touchline ban in the Russian Premier League for confronting an official, oversaw a 3-2 win in Spain courtesy of Hulk’s double and Axel Witsel’s late goal.

And history favours the Russians, who have won all five previous home matches against Belgian opposition with an aggregate score of 12-1.

Gent showed they were no pushovers in their opening-game draw against Lyon, though, securing a hard-earned point despite finishing the match with nine men – Matz Sels’ late penalty save from Alexandre Lacazette proving crucial.

Brecht Dejaegere and Thomas Foket saw red in that game and will be absent for the trip to a Zenit side whose domestic campaign has faltered of late.

A four-match winless run has left them playing catch-up, with Villas-Boas’ revelation that he will leave the club at the end of the season potentially impacting on their form.

It is not the only controversy to have surfaced at the club this month, with star man Hulk claiming to have suffered racist abuse during Saturday’s 2-2 Russian Premier League draw with Spartak Moscow.

Gent have suffered no such problems and are enjoying an 11-game unbeaten run, though six of those fixtures have ended in draws.

Coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck felt his side spurned an opportunity to claim maximum points on their competition debut against Lyon and urged his men to be “smarter”.

With Gent being the underdogs for this match, Zenit may need to take a different approach to that which saw them overcome Valencia.

The Liga outfit had 62 per cent possession, racked up 15 shots to Zenit’s seven and amassed 12 corners to two. Unsurprisingly, Villas-Boas cited his side’s threat on the counter-attack as key, but they may be expected to take the game to Gent on home soil.

Oleg Shatov (muscular injury) is a doubt for Zenit after missing the last two matches, while Erik Johansson (knee) is out for the visitors.

Sun 27 Sep, 2015
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