Zenit – Real Sociedad (Europa League)
After both teams won in the opening day of the group stage, Zenit and Real Sociedad are now face to face at Krestovsky Stadium, in St. Petersbourg, for the 2nd round of Group L of the Europa League. The home team arrive here comfortable not only thanks to their strong victory in the 1st round of the group stage, but also for being isolated at the top of the table in the Russian Premier League. Real Sociedad, on their turn, started their campaign in the competition with a strong victory, but ended up losing all the following three matches.
Zenit occupy the 1st place in this Group L with 3 points, result of one win, with 5 goals scored and no goals conceded. In order to reach this group stage, Zenit were forced to defeat Bnei Yehuda and FC Utrecht in the preliminary rounds, and enjoyed a very strong start in this group stage, defeating Vardar in hostil ground by 5-0. Despite being eliminated from the Russian Cup last Thrusday, the Russians are meeting their obligations in the Russian Premier League and are already isolated leaders, with a 4-point lead over second placed Lokomotiv Moscow.
The Tricolor are going through a very good moment this season, having only conceded 3 goals in the 11 matches they played, scoring 21 goals in the process. This is a strong team in what attacking is concerned, being strong in offensive set pieces, in attacking down the wings and are very strong in finishing scoring chances, with Kokorin being the top scorer in the Russian Premier League, with 7 goals scored. At home, they have only lost 1 of the 7 games played this season, having won 5, with 16 goals scored and 3 conceded.
In their last 5 official matches, Zenit has a record of 3 victories, 1 draw and 1 defeat. This sequence of results started with a 0-0 draw against Dinamo Moscow. This result was followed by a 0-5 victory against Vardar, for the Europa League, a 3-0 win over Ufa, a 3-2 defeat against Dinamo St. Petersbourg, for the Russian Cup, and in their last match, a 0-2 victory against Krasnodar.
Probable Lineup: Lunev – Ivanovic, Mammana, Mevlja and Criscito – Erokhin, Kranevitter and Noboa – Kokorin, Dzyuba and Poloz.
Real Sociedad, on their turn, are in 2nd place of this Group L with 3 points, result of one win, with 4 goals scored and no goals conceded. Real Sociedad went straight into this group stage after a successful last season, being the first time they return to Europa League since 1998/99. La Real enjoyed a very strong start in this competition after a great home victory over Rosenborg, by 4-0, but since then have been unable to get back to wining ways, failing to win any of the following three matches, conceding three goals in each game.
The basque club are not going through a good moment, showing defensive difficulties in stopping opponents from creating chances and are very weak in defending against through ball attacks. However, they continue to be strong in what attacking is concerned, they play with width are very dangerous in attacking down the wings, attempting crosses often, and are strong in offensive set pieces. This trip to Russia does not come at a good time, with Eusebio Sacristán’s men going through a bad moment, although a victory here would bring a lot of confidence back to the basque club.
In their last 5 official matches, Real Sociedad has a record of 2 victories and 3 defeats. This sequence of results started with a 2-4 victory against Deportivo. This result was followed by a 4-0 win against Rosenborg, for the Europa League, a 1-3 defeat against Real Madrid, a 3-0 defeat against Levante, and in their last round, a 2-3 defeat against Valencia. Juanmi, Raul Navas and Carlos Martínez are all out due to injury.
Probable Lineup: Rulli – Odriozola, Elustondo, Llorente and Bella – Prieto, Illarramendi and Zurutuza – Vela, José and Canales.
This will be the first time these two teams are face to face. Zenit are in a great form this season and arrive here confident, while their opponents are going through a bad moment of form. Expect an intense game, with a few goals on the mix, but with the Russian side being able to avoid defeat.