Benfica vs Zenit St Petersburg preview - AVB keen to maintain fine start

Posted Tuesday, September 16, 2014 by PA

Andre Villas-Boas takes his in-form Zenit St Petersburg side to Benfica for their Champions League opener on Tuesday unworried by the prospect of overconfidence threatening their impressive start.

Zenit finished a point behind Russian Premier League winners CSKA Moscow last year but are currently top of the table having won all seven of their opening fixtures.

Having overcome AEL Limassol and Standard Liege to reach the group stage, Villas-Boas acknowledges his side face a tough run of games this month but that a defeat at any time would not knock the belief he has in his players.

"We should understand that when this (a defeat) does happen, it won't be because we were too overconfident or anything like that," he said.

"It will be because our opponent was better than us and then you just have to jump right back again and show that you are stronger. We have five matches in September, including the Champions League and a derby with Spartak (Moscow) and if we manage to play as we have been, then we have a chance of getting some great results."

The Group C clash will see Ezequiel Garay return to face Benfica - the side he left for Russia in the summer, with Zenit midfielders Axel Witsel and Javi Garcia also coming up against their former club.

With Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco making up the rest of the group, it is anticipated as one of the closest to call but Villas-Boas has not ruled out rotating his squad after a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Dynamo Moscow.

"We'll see," he said when asked if he would stick with the side that beat Dynamo.

"We have a tough match up ahead in the Champions League, then a match against Spartak, and between them a meeting with Anzhi, and we want to stay in the Russian Cup. We'll see how this all develops."

Benfica will provide stern opposition as Villas-Boas returns to his homeland as Jorge Jesus' side boast an unbeaten opening four league games and go into European competition on the back of a 5-0 thrashing of Vitoria Setubal.

Eduardo Salvio believes Group C will prove to be a challenging examination for last season's beaten Europa League finalists but the winger has called on the club's fans to make the Zenit game a memorable night at the Stadium of Light.

"On Tuesday we expect to have a great support of fans to help achieve our goals," he said.

"We are in a difficult and complicated group, but in the Champions League the challenge is to look to win and enjoy every game."

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