Posted on Mar 05
Benfica will turn to home comforts as they seek to overturn a 3-2 deficit against Russian champions Zenit Saint Petersburg at the Estadio da Luz on Tuesday.
A late goal from Paraguay striker Oscar Cardozo looked to have salvaged a draw for Jorge Jesus' side in the first leg at the Petrovski Stadium until Roman Shirokov capitalised on a defensive lapse to slot home an 88th-minute winner for the hosts.
Since that defeat in Russia, Benfica are without a win in three matches, a run that includes a deflating 3-2 reverse at home to title rivals Porto on Friday.
However, the Portuguese outfit will draw confidence from having lost just once in their previous 19 European home games -- a sequence that includes 15 wins -- and the fact they have never been on the losing side against a Russian opponent on home soil.
Ezequiel Garay (knee) is the hosts' main injury concern after the Argentine sustained a knock in the loss to Porto, while Yannick Djalo is also struggling after picking up a thigh injury during training.
Pablo Aimar is suspended for the tie, but Javi Garcia and Rodrigo -- the club's second leading scorer behind Cardozo -- are fit again.
As for Zenit, the Russian league leaders are unbeaten in 17 matches but have drawn eight of the last 13 and have failed to win any of their past five European away fixtures.
Luciano Spalletti's men currently have a six-point lead at the top of the Russian Premier League.
They returned to domestic action over the weekend, earning a point in a 2-2 draw with second-placed CSKA Moscow following more than three months out for the winter break.
Zenit will be boosted by the return of Russia goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev, who is set to replace Yuri Zhevnov after recovering from a calf injury.
Zhevnov was arguably culpable for both of Benfica's goals in the first leg, while Italian defender Domenico Criscito is also back in action following a bout of food poisoning.
But Spalletti will once again be without the services of Portuguese talisman Danny -- out for the season with torn knee ligaments -- and loan signing Andrei Arshavin is ineligible, having already featured in the competition for parent club Arsenal.