The Europa League playoff round takes place over the next two weeks. Zenit Saint Petersburg will be looking to make it through to the next round, but will have to see off La Liga high-flyers Real Betis over two legs.
Europa League Preview
Zenit may not have been hoping to compete in the Europa League in the second half of the season, but in truth, they always faced an uphill struggle after being drawn against Chelsea and Juventus in Group H of the Champions League. Zenit still came out of the group stages with some respectability, as they won five points from the six games that they played.
They certainly caused issues for both Juventus and Chelsea in the fixtures played against the heavyweights, with their 3-3 draw on matchday six effectively costing the latter their place at the top of the standings. This could be a good season for Zenit in the Europa League, as they look to build on their previous success in the competition back in the 2007-08 season. However, this could be one of the more difficult draws they could have been given.
Real Betis would have been hoping to top their Europa League group in the first half of the season, but costly defeats against Celtic and Bayer Leverkusen meant that the best that they could manage was second. They picked up ten points from the six games that they played, which was three fewer than the Bundesliga side.
One factor that certainly needs addressing is their defensive record, as they allowed 12 goals in the first half of the Europa League campaign. That was more than double the number of goals conceded by Leverkusen in the same number of games. A tight defence will be needed here if they are to take a positive result back to Spain.
Zenit vs Real Betis Head to Head
This is the first time that Zenit and Betis have clashed in a European competition. The second time that the two sides square off will be next Thursday.
Zenit vs Real Betis Prediction
Zenit have often come unstuck in the second half of European campaigns as they have played few games during the winter break. The Atlantic Cup means that they should be sharp coming into this first leg, and we could see them taking a narrow advantage back to Spain.
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