UEFA Europa League – Leipzig-Zenit – Leipzig v Zenit background
European newcomers Leipzig are through to the UEFA Europa League round of 16; their reward for eliminating Serie A high fliers Napoli is another high-profile tie against experienced continental campaigners as they take on Russian club Zenit.
• Leipzig, who finished third in their UEFA Champions League group, enjoyed a remarkable UEFA Europa League debut, winning 3-1 in Naples in the first leg of the round of 32. Although defeated 2-0 at home in the return, the German club survived courtesy of the away goals rule.
• Zenit, who topped Group L in the autumn, overturned a 1-0 first-leg defeat at Celtic in the round of 32, defeating the Scottish champions 3-0 in St Petersburg to reach the round of 16 for a record-equalling fourth time.
• The two clubs have never met in European competition and Leipzig are yet to face Russian opposition.
• Zenit’s away record against German teams is three wins, two draws and three defeats, which contrasts favourably with their home record (W2 D1 L5). They were unbeaten in five matches on German soil until their most recent encounter – a 0-2 defeat at Bayer Leverkusen in the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Leipzig have won only one of their four European home games (D1 L2) and are yet to keep a clean sheet, conceding seven goals including two in each of the last three. They have lost their last two home European fixtures.
• Leipzig gained automatic entry into the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League after finishing runners-up to Bundesliga champions Bayern München at the end of their debut season in Germany’s top flight. They are the only club to have played their first European fixture in the UEFA Champions League group stage.
• Zenit have lost just one of their last nine UEFA outings (W7 D1) – the 1-0 defeat at Celtic. The 3-0 home win in the return leg gave the Russian club their first clean sheet in seven games, having conceded one goal in each of the previous six.
• Zenit are playing springtime European football for the eighth year in a row. This is the fifth season during that sequence in which they have participated in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase.
• The Russian side were successful at this stage of the UEFA Europa League in 2014/15, eliminating Torino 2-1 on aggregate, but they failed to progress to the quarter-finals on their previous two round of 16 appearances, going out to FC Twente in 2010/11 and Basel in 2012/13. They have failed to score in all three of their away games at this stage of the competition, losing each one.
• Zenit finished third in last season’s Russian league and reached the UEFA Europa League group stage after overcoming Bnei Yehuda in the third qualifying round and Utrecht in the play-offs – both on 2-1 aggregate margins, the latter after extra time.
Links and trivia
• Zenit are the top-scoring team in the competition, group stage and knockout phase combined, with 20 goals.
• Leipzig became the 204th club to compete in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final – and a record 17th from Germany – when they transferred over from the UEFA Champions League in the winter.
• Zenit are one of three Russian clubs, alongside CSKA Moskva and Lokomotiv Moskva, competing in the round of 16 – the largest representation of any nation. Last season Belgium had the most teams in both the round of 16 (three) and the quarter-finals (two). Russia has never previously boasted more than one quarter-finalist in a single campaign.
• Leipzig’s Kevin Kampl is a Slovenian national team-mate of Zenit’s Miha Mevlja.
• Zenit forward Dmitri Poloz scored his first international goal for Russia past Leipzig goalkeeper Péter Gulácsi in a 3-0 win against Hungary in June 2017. Igor Smolnikov, Yuri Zhirkov and Aleksandr Erokhin also played for Russia in that Budapest friendly.
• Gulácsi has played every minute of Leipzig’s eight European games this season.
• Timo Werner has scored five goals in his last three away continental outings for Leipzig, but has yet to score at home.
• In August 1994, Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhüttl played for Austria in a 0-3 friendly defeat to Russia in Klagenfurt, with Igor Simutenkov, Zenit’s current assistant coach, completing the scoring from the penalty spot.
• Leandro Paredes (Zenit) sits out this fixture through suspension.
• Suspended for next match if booked: Willi Orban, Marcel Sabitzer, Yussuf Poulsen, Jean-Kévin Augustin (Leipzig); Aleksandr Erokhin, Domenico Criscito, Mathías Kranevitter, Daler Kuzyaev (Zenit).
• Former Austrian international striker Ralph Hasenhüttl was appointed as RB Leipzig coach following their promotion to the Bundesliga in 2016, and he hit the ground running, remaining unbeaten in his first 13 league games en route to guiding the club to a runners-up spot in their debut top-flight campaign. His previous coaching posts have all been in Germany – at Unterhaching, Aalen and Ingolstadt.
• Former Italy international forward Roberto Mancini took charge of Zenit in June 2017. A Serie A and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup winner as a player with both Sampdoria and Lazio, he coached Internazionale and Manchester City to domestic league championships, and more recently claimed a Turkish Cup triumph with Galatasaray. He has won 12 domestic cups in total as a player and manager.