Preview: Chelsea vs Zenit St Petersburg – prediction, team news, lineups
Both with unbeaten records in their domestic leagues so far, Chelsea host Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday, when the group stage of the Champions League returns.
Three months after the defending champions triumphed in Porto, they begin their campaign in Group H against a team that ranks at the top of the Russian Premier League and with the aim of improving on last year’s early start. Chelsea vs Zenit St Petersburg live stream, Chelsea vs Zenit St Petersburg preview, Chelsea vs Zenit St Petersburg channel, Chelsea vs Zenit St Petersburg where to watch, Chelsea vs Zenit St Petersburg today.
A comfortable 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on Saturday leaves Chelsea in ideal shape to begin the defense of their continental crown this week.
Returning hero Romelu Lukaku’s brace, with a goal at each end of the game, helped secure the victory for Thomas Tuchel’s men, despite the Villans giving goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, who held an English record of nine clean sheets in the Champions League last season, a busy afternoon.
The Blues, therefore, have a record of three wins and a draw so far in the Premier League and have only conceded once, proving once again the steel advantage they have developed since Tuchel came to the bench in January.
Upon arrival, Chelsea were 14 games unbeaten, the longest opening streak without a defeat by any manager in club history, and the 2020 runner-up with Paris St. Germain finally got better with the London club last season, helping them to lift your second Champions League trophy.
Now looking for a third, Chelsea have repatriated one of the world’s best-attacking talents as Lukaku returns to England as the club’s record signing. Belgium’s all-time top scorer, who scored 24 goals last season when Inter won their first Scudetto in a decade, looks ready to add the required finishing touch to a star-studded squad.
Assembled at extraordinary cost, the capital club’s playing team includes Jorginho, recently named UEFA Player of the Year, N’Golo Kante (UEFA’s best midfielder), and Mendy (Goalkeeper of the Year), while Tuchel claimed the coach’s award.
Starting as strong favorites to progress, they will be the first Chelsea team to face one of Russia’s biggest clubs this week, having never faced Zenit before.
Similar to their opening day hosts, Zenit scored three goals at the weekend, beating Akhmat Grozny 3-1 in the Russian top flight. Goals from the Brazilian couple Wendel and Malcom, plus a goal from Russian midfielder Aleksandr Yerokhin, secured another three points; helping them take absolute control over a division they have dominated in recent years.
Head coach Sergei Semak, a five-time national champion as a player, had previously enjoyed being an assistant at both Zenit and Russia before taking the top spot at modest Ufa; leading them to a club record in sixth place in the top flight in 2018 and then to become Zenit’s boss in May of that year. Since then, he has led his current club to three consecutive titles and is now also aiming for elusive European progress.
However, the former midfielder has a big task ahead of him, as the Russian champions must not only compete with Chelsea for a place in the Round of 16 but also with Italian giants Juventus and Swedish champion Malmo.
Of course, the ultimate dream would be to take his team out of Zenit’s imposing home at the Saint Petersburg Arena in the Champions League final next spring. Also host to seven games at Euro 2020, their home is a stronghold for Zenitchiki, but last year they were beaten by Borussia Dortmund, Lazio, and Club Brugge on the road as they finished last in their group.
This season, they’ve added one more touch of Brazilian flair to a growing collection, as Claudinho, fresh off Olympic gold with Brazil, recently signed up for Brasileiro with upstart RB Bragantino. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder finished as the top joint scorer in Brazil’s Serie A last season, with 18 league goals, and could play an integral role in Zenit’s quest to survive the group stage for the first time since 2015.
Now, kicking off the club’s ninth proper Champions League campaign, and a third in a row, they have reached the first knockout round in 2011-12, 2013-14, and 2015-16, but have yet to make further progress.
Chelsea will begin their Champions League defense without American winger Christian Pulisic, while doubts remain about influential midfielder N’Golo Kante. The Frenchman was forced to retire midway through last month’s game in Liverpool with an ankle injury and has yet to return, while Pulisic is expected to remain out of the game for a few more days with a blow to his ankle.
However, defensive back Thiago Silva is available after a suspension imposed by FIFA was lifted last week, and could start in three defenses for the home team.
Meanwhile, after a rare break over the weekend, Jorginho should be joined in midfield by Mateo Kovacic, although new signing Saul Niguez is also a contender despite a difficult debut. Just days after scoring his first league goals at Stamford Bridge, the irrepressible Romelu Lukaku leads from the lead.
Long linked with a move to England, Zenit’s Sardar Azmoun, a 17-goal scorer in the 2019-20 Russian Premier League, will start on a likely front-two for the visitors. After raising his tally to 19 last season, the Iranian international finished the campaign just one goal behind his towering attacking partner Artem Dzyuba, recently defeated by Russia.
Sergei Semak’s team will travel without midfielder Magomed Ozdoyev, who injured his knee ligaments within eight minutes of his first league game in late July and has not played since. There are also concerns about the fitness of center-back Dmitri Chistyakov, whose ankle injury will also leave him out.
Like Thiago Silva, former Barcelona winger Malcom and his teammate Claudinho were initially ruled out of the game after the Brazilian Federation asked FIFA to impose bans on those who did not show up for international service. However, on Friday night they were given the go-ahead and now they should start.
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Christensen, Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Kovacic, Jorginho, Alonso; Havertz, Lukaku, Mount
Zenit St Petersburg possible starting lineup:
Kritsyuk; Sutormin, Lovren, Rakitskiy, Santos; Erokhin, Kuzyaev, Claudinho, Malcom; Dzyuba, Azmoun