Zenit to edge past weakened Atletico Madrid in early televised clash
Atletico Madrid currently split La Liga’s traditional top two in second place in the Spanish top-flight, ahead of city rivals Real and just three points behind champions Barcelona.
Los Rojiblancos have been no less impressive in the Champions League, but with Diego Simeone’s side already assured of top spot in Group G, hosts Zenit – second in the table on five points – have much more to gain from this fixture, which is live on TV at 5.00pm.
Zenit to win @ 11/10
The fact that Luciano Spalletti’s side are favourites for this match tells its own story, as Atletico would surely be well fancied by Coral to win at the Petrovsky Stadium if they needed to.
As it is, Simeone travels to Russia without Diego Costa, David Villa and Arda Turan, who have scored 28 of Atletico’s 48 La Liga and Champions League goals between them this term.
Paulo Fonseca – who’s Porto side stand to gain most from an Atletico victory tonight – is confident the La Liga outfit will do him a favour, but there seems little sense in backing a team with nothing to play for against a team desperate for three points, so the home win is predicted with some confidence.
Hulk to score the first goal @ 5/1
The 27-year-old Brazilian forward – who has repeatedly been linked with a move to the Premier League – has been one of the top marksmen on the continent since a breakthrough 23-goal season in the Portuguese Primeira Liga with Porto in 2010/11.
Hulk has scored ten goals in all competitions for Zenit this season and netted in both his country’s recent wins against Honduras and Chile.
He also bagged the equaliser at home against his former employers – which kept his current side in this competition – and levelled against Atletico at the Vicente Calderon, although Zenit went on to lose the match 3-1.
With second-top scorer in the Russian Premier League Danny ruled out of this tie, the Selecao striker is taken to force his ample frame through Los Rojiblancos’ defence and score the opener here.
Under 2.5 goals @ 8/13
Atletico have scored 38 goals in their 14 La Liga matches so far this term and thrashed Getafe 7-0 last time out at the Vicente Caderon.
Their 12 goals in the Champions League group stage means they only trail Real Madrid and PSG in the scoring stakes in Europe’s elite competition, but with Costa and Villa rested for this clash it is difficult to see Simeone’s side scoring another hatful in Saint Petersburg.
Former Arsenal target Adrian is expected to play furthest forward against Zenit and the Spanish international has scored just once in 12 appearances for Atleti this term.
Zenit have only managed four goals in as many games recently and with main goal threat Danny missing, a dour affair is expected in Russia.