Zenit St. Petersburg v Austria Vienna
Group H, Petrovski Stadium, Saint Petersburg
Both Zenit St. Petersburg and Austria Vienna would want a win when they lock horns on Matchday 2 after disappointing results in the first round of matches. While Zenit lost 3-1 to high flying Spanish side Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon, Vienna went down 1-0 to FC Porto at home.
The Russian side come into this tie in good form losing just one out of their 11 domestic matches. They sit at the top of the Russian Premier League after beating second placed Spartak Moscow 4-2 over the weekend. The Russian side have also won 5 out of their last 6 European matches and have lost only one out of 23 matches at the Petrovsky Stadium in continental competition.
Zenit will again rely on Brazilian Hulk for pace, power and goals up front. The former Porto man has made an impressive start this season scoring 7 times in 9 games. Zenit could also welcome back Roman Shirokov and the defensive midfielder will allow some of the flair players like Andrey Arshavin and Danny more freedom to attack Vienna.
The Austrian side meanwhile are having a nightmare of a season. They enter the match against Zenit floundering in fifth place in the Austrian Bundesliga and have a lengthy injury list consisting of Marko Stankovic, Daniel Royer, Alexander Grunwald and Alexander Gorgon.
Vienna who won the domestic title last year lost 1-0 over the weekend and enter this match as rank outsiders. They would look to contain Zenit in the first half and hope that the fixture pile up facing their rivals takes a toll on them in the latter stages of the match.
Prediction: Zenit St. Petersburg 3-0 Austria Vienna
Players to watch out for: Hulk (Zenit St. Petersburg); Heinza Lindler (Austria Vienna)
FC Porto v Atletico Madrid
Group H, Estadio do Dragao, Porto
Porto take on Atletico on Matchday 2 with both sides in fine form. Atletico beat neighbours Real Madrid 1-0 over the weekend which was their first league win over the Spanish giants since 1999. Atletico have won all 7 of their matches in the La Liga this term and are unbeaten in all 13 matches this competition. Porto are also in red hot form having won 5 out of their 6 domestic matches and lead the Portuguese Primeira Liga. Porto are a difficult team to beat at home having not lost a single league match here since October, 2008.
Porto defeated Austria Vienna in their first match of this year’s Champions League campaign thanks to a goal from Lucho Gonzalez and know that a victory here will almost assure them of a place in the next round. However Paulo Fonseca, the Porto coach, will realise that Atletico are a far more difficult proposition than the teams Porto faces in the domestic league. The Portuguese side will have to be very patient to find spaces in the well marshalled Los Rojiblancos defence. Fonseca will also be aided by the return of Belgian midfielder Steven Defour which ensures that he has a full squad to choose from.
Atletico also won their opening match 3-1 at home to Zenit with Leo Baptistao, Miranda and Arda Turan getting their names on the score sheet. The only problem that Diego Simeone, the Atletico coach, faces is the suspension of striker Diego Costa. The Brazilian has been irresistible this term and has effectively filled the Falcao sized hole for the Rojiblancos following the Colombian’s mega money move to French side Monaco.
Fellow striker Adrian Lopez is also absent as he recovers from facial surgery but defender Diego Godin could feature after making a return from injury.
How these two sides approach this match should be interesting. Atletico might go for a draw here knowing that they have two matches to come against the relatively weaker Austria Vienna. Porto meanwhile, would back themselves for a win but whether they have the firepower to blast open the Rojiblancos defence is a matter up for debate.
Prediction: FC Porto 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Players to watch out for: Jackson Martinez (FC Porto); Miranda (Atletico Madrid)