Zenit will host Real Betis in the knockout round play-offs this Thursday at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg. The second leg will be played in Spain.
Zenit finished third in Group H of the Champions League, behind Chelsea and Juventus, with five points, finishing ahead of Malmo, from whom they took four points.
On the other hand, we have the side from Spain.
Real Betis secured their trip to Russia after finishing a point ahead of Celtic as runners-up to Leverkusen in Group G of this competition.
Both the teams are in a good form this season, and they will lock horns on Thursday night, as European football makes its return on our TV screens.
Its Zenit vs Real Betis!
This will be the first time the two clubs have ever met. With no precedent to rely on, this match-up becomes even more uncertain in terms of who will win!
Zenit in their last 6 matches has won 5 consecutive times and drew only with Dynamo Moscow back in early December.
In the Russian Premier League, they are in the midst of another dominant season. They are presently two points ahead of their nearest title competitor at the top of the table, on track to win their fourth straight league title.
Real Betis also follow a similar trajectory in terms of recent form. They have won 5 times in their last 6 matches with the only result that went south being a defeat against Villareal. The winners of the Europa League last time around!
Domestically, the Seville team is performing well. They are currently sitting third in La Liga, just behind Real Madrid and cross-town rivals Sevilla, and four points ahead of fourth-place Barcelona.
Zenit has only lost one of their 24 UEFA Europa League home matches (W21 D2), albeit that setback came in their most recent home match in the competition in March 2019 against Villarreal. Despite the loss, they still hold the highest home winning percentage in the competition’s history (88 percent – min. 5 games).
Zenit has lost the first leg of each of their previous six two-leg knockout stages UEFA Europa League ties but has progressed in two of them – against Celtic in 2017-18 and Fenerbahçe in 2018-19.
After only losing only one of their first 10 away matches in the UEFA Europa League (W5 D4), Real Betis have lost each of their last two away games in the competition, conceding seven goals across games against Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Celtic.
Despite having a fantastic season in LaLiga, Real Betis has dropped points twice in their past four away games and were only able to gain points away from Ferencvaros but lost to Celtic and Leverkusen in group stage away games.
Meanwhile, in the Champions League, their opponents Zenit, took points from Chelsea and Malmo in their respective home matches, which is no small feat.
Since Zenit will be fighting the first war at their home turf, and given their good home record and given Betis’s recent away form, Zenit might be the favorites to come out on top in this one.
Well, at least in the first leg!
It will be interesting to see the outcome when the fight is taken to Spain.