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Crunch day for Champions League last-16


Crunch day for Champions League last-16


Benfica go into their Champions League last-16 second leg against Zenit St Petersburg in Lisbon desperate to overturn a grim lack of form that began with the first leg defeat in Russia.

They lost that match 3-2 to a last-gasp Zenit goal. Benfica have failed to win anything since and let go of a five point lead at the top of the domestic league, slipping to second.

Benfica Coach Jorge Jesus said: “The fact that we arrive at the second leg with a 3-2 disadvantage can still leave us with some confidence. We believe we have every chance of going through but we are also sure that were playing against a strong team.”

Zenit welcome back some experience in the form of their goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeyev after a calf injury and the Italian international Domenico Criscito returns after missing the first leg with food poisoning.

Zenit are riding high in the Russian league at the moment, but will miss Portugal’s midfielder Danny who has had ligament surgery and Andrei Arshavin, who is ineligible because he is on loan from Arsenal, he played for them earlier in the competition.

Zenit Coach Luciano Spalletti said: “I don’t want to get into who is favourite, we will just think about getting in there and playing 90 minutes with all our quality and all we got because this is the most important match in Zenit’s history.”

Arsenal welcome AC Milan to north London and the hosts are facing a four goal first-leg mountain to climb just to draw level.

Arsenal remain unbeaten in their last 12 Champions League home games, 10 of which they have won.

Manager Arsene Wenger said the Dutch striker Robin van Persie will have a pivotal role, having scored 31 goals in all competitions this season.

The Milan coach has said there is still hard work to do by his team despite their advantage and warned against underestimating the task ahead.

But Massimiliano Allegri added that he believes his Swedish international Zlatan Ibrahimovic is among the three best players in the world at the moment.

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