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Oct 20, 2021 at 8pm UK
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Preview: Zenit St Petersburg vs. Juventus - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Zenit St Petersburg vs. Juventus - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Champions League clash between Zenit St Petersburg and Juventus, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Group H leaders Juventus travel to Russia to take on Zenit St Petersburg in Wednesday evening's Champions League action.

The Italians have a perfect record in the competition to this point, whilst their hosts sit third in the group with one win and one loss.

Match preview

The Russian champions are once again top of the Russian Premier League after 11 matches of the new campaign, but saw their 18-game domestic run come to an end when they were beaten 2-1 at home by Sochi.

That game was then followed up by another defeat at the weekend as Artem Dzyuba's late equaliser was immediately rendered futile by a 90th-minute winner from Kings Kangwa as Arsenal Tula repeated the Sochi scoreline.

Sergei Semak will be hoping that these back-to-back defeats represent a blip rather than the start of a crisis, but he likely would have preferred an opponent other than Juventus as they attempt to return to winning ways.

Zenit's Champions League campaign to this point has been mixed - they will have been disappointed with a narrow loss to Chelsea but followed that up with an impressive 4-0 win at home to Malmo.

However, if they want to stand a chance of ousting one of Group H's big two teams from the top two spots, they will have to take points away from them one way or another.

Juventus have staked their claim on top spot after a perfect start in which they have beaten the tournament holders and not conceded a goal.

A 3-0 win over underdogs Malmo in the opening game was perhaps expected but well-executed nonetheless, and a 1-0 victory over Chelsea was ruthlessly efficient - Federico Chiesa's goal 10 seconds into the second half was enough to secure the win, as the Blues registered 73% of the possession but struggled to create a killer chance, managing just one effort on target.

Whilst their position in the league may not look particularly pretty, sat in seventh, they are only three points behind Inter Milan in third and are now on a fantastic run of form.

Two points from their opening four Serie A games was a troubling start for Juve, but since then they have won every game - six in all competitions and four in the league.

A Moise Kean goal gave them a 1-0 win over Roma at the weekend, which will leave spirits high heading into the game against Zenit and faith in their returning manager, Massimiliano Allegri, fully restored.

Zenit St Petersburg Champions League form:
  • L
  • W

Zenit St Petersburg form (all competitions):
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • L

Juventus Champions League form:
  • W
  • W

Juventus form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Team News

Sardar Azmoun missed Zenit's 2-1 loss to Arsenal Tula through suspension, but is now available and will return to lead the line on Wednesday.

Magomed Ozdoev is ruled out with a ligament injury but is the home side's only injury concern, leaving Semak with plenty of options to attempt to nullify the threat of The Old Lady.

It is a rare occurrence to witness a player making their 100th Champions League appearance but both Zenit defender Yaroslav Rakitskyi and Juventus stalwart Leonardo Bonucci are due to reach that landmark on Wednesday.

Bonucci will be joined in central defence by Giorgio Chiellini, with Matthijs de Ligt sidelined by a muscle injury.

Paulo Dybala is also in the treatment room, and Adrien Rabiot will be absent after testing positive for COVID-19.

Alvaro Morata returned from injury with a substitute appearance against Roma, though, and is expected to start alongside goalscorer Kean.

Zenit St Petersburg possible starting lineup:
Kerzhakov; Barrios, Chistyakov, Rakitskyi; Sutormin, Kuzyaev, Wendel, Santos; Malcom, Azmoun, Claudinho

Juventus possible starting lineup:
Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, Chiellini, Sandro; Chiesa, Bentancur, Locatelli, Bernardeschi; Morata, Kean

We say: Zenit St Petersburg 0-1 Juventus

Zenit's two-game losing streak may well become three games, despite home advantage and their determination for a result. Juventus are in great form and, whilst their centre-back partnership may not be as youthful as it once was, they remain as resilient as ever so we are backing a 1-0 away win.

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