With qualification for the round of 32 already under lock and key, Real Sociedad and Zenit go head to head in San Sebastian with their eyes on the prize of first place in Group L.

The Russian visitors need to avoid defeat to remain in top spot, while their Spanish hosts require a win to displace them.

Previous meetings
• The sides met for the first time on matchday two, Aleksandr Kokorin scoring twice in the Saint Petersburg Stadium to add to an early Emiliano Rigoni strike and give Zenit a 3-1 victory; Diego Llorente got Real Sociedad’s consolation goal.

• Real Sociedad’s record in five encounters with Russian teams now stands at W3 L2, with victories in both home games. They were eliminated from the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League play-offs – their most recent European campaign prior to this one – by Krasnodar, a 1-0 home win preceding a 3-0 defeat in Russia.

• Zenit’s results in 19 matches against Spanish sides are broken down as follows: W5 D6 L8. Their only victory in Spain came in their most recent fixture, 3-2 at Valencia in the opening group game of the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League. They had lost on all seven of their earlier visits.

Form guide
• Real Sociedad have won their last four European fixtures in San Sebastian without conceding, scoring 13 times themselves. In the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League they are on a run of 12 successive home wins, in which they have let in just one goal – to another Spanish club, Atlético Madrid.

• The last team to deny La Real victory in front of their own fans in this competition were Sporting CP in the second round of the 1988/89 UEFA Cup (0-0). The last non-Spanish side to score against them in San Sebastian in this competition were Dukla Praha in the same season a round earlier (a 2-1 home win).

• Zenit are undefeated in six UEFA outings (W5 D1) and are guaranteed springtime European football for the eighth year in a row.

• Although Real Sociedad played in the UEFA Champions League group stage in 2003/04 and 2013/14, the San Sebastian outfit are making their debut at this juncture of the UEFA Europa League.

UEFA Cup winners in 2008, Zenit finished third in Russia last term. They have competed in either the UEFA Champions League or the UEFA Europa League group stage in every season since – and including – 2010/11.


Highlights: Zenit 3 – 1 Real Sociedad

Links and trivia
• The journey from St Petersburg to San Sebastian is around 2,850km.

• Zenit’s Matías Kranevitter played in Spain with Atlético Madrid (2015/16) and Sevilla (2016/17), for whom he played in a 4-0 win at Real in January 2017.

• Real have the best disciplinary record in the competition, having incurred just one yellow card in the first five matchdays.

• La Real are the highest-scoring team in the competition after five games with 15 goals – one more than Zenit. They also lead the way with most goal attempts (79) and most possession (67%) and share top billing with Nice for highest pass completion rate (91%).

• Zenit’s Rigoni is the competition’s joint-leading scorer (alongside Milan’s André Silva) with six goals; Kokorin is next in line with five.

• Real’s Sergio Canales currently tops the 2017/18 UEFA Europa League assists chart with five – one more than team-mate Xabi Prieto.

The coaches
• Real Sociedad boss since 2015, Eusebio Sacristán can complete a full set of major UEFA trophies this season, having won the European Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup as a midfielder with Barcelona. He was also Barcelona’s assistant coach and B team boss.

• Roberto Mancini took charge of Zenit in June 2017. A UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup winner as a player with Sampdoria in 1989/90 and Lazio in 1998/99, he coached Internazionale Milano and Manchester City to league championships, and more recently claimed a Turkish Cup triumph with Galatasaray.


Source link