Andre Villas-Boas keen for Zenit to fulfil Champions League dream
Boss Andre Villas-Boas is confident Zenit St Petersburg's supporters can help take his team to "a new level" against Benfica and fulfil their dream of securing a place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
Benfica head to the Petrovskiy Stadium defending a slender 1-0 lead from the first leg in Portugal, secured only by a stoppage-time goal from Jonas following the dismissal of Zenit defender Domenico Criscito.
Zenit have reached the knock-out stages for the third time in the past five campaigns but have so far never made it into the last eight of Europe's elite club competition.
However, with his team boasting an impressive home Champions League record this season, winning all three group matches and conceding just two goals, Portuguese coach Villas-Boas is hoping to make history in 2016.
"We are confident that we can score the necessary goals. The quarter-finals of the Champions League is our dream. It will be a major event for Russian football. And of course, this special emotion will help us on Wednesday," Villas-Boas said, quoted on Zenit's official website www.en.fc-zenit.ru.
"In the return leg, we have such an advantage. By that, I mean our fans.
"I am sure it will be a full stadium and they will create the atmosphere that will help the team to a new level."
Benfica coach Rui Vitoria is missing injured centre-backs Luisao and Lisandro Lopez, while Jardel and full-back Andre Almeida are suspended and goalkeeper Julio Cesar has a thigh problem, so Ederson is set to deputise.
Vitoria's men head into the second leg against Zenit having secured a 1-0 win at Sporting on Saturday to leapfrog their Lisbon neighbours at the top of the Portuguese Liga table.
It was a 12th victory in 13 matches for Benfica, who have lost only once since mid-December, beaten 2-1 at home by Porto last month.
Despite their fine run of form, Brazilian forward Jonas accepts it will take another determined effort to return from Russia with a positive result.
"Zenit have been playing some good football, they always do well in their league, and in the Champions League they had a good group stage," he said on www.UEFA.com.
"The away leg against Zenit will be very difficult, especially because of the weather conditions, which can affect things a bit. They are used to cold weather, we are not, so (there will be) lots of difficulties.
"The goal we set at the start of the season was to get through the group stage and then take it match by match - we have reached our target and now we have to continue, who knows, maybe we can cause a surprise and get through to the next round?"
Jonas added: "Now (in the knock-out stage) it is kill or be killed. It's different from playing six matches in the group stage - it's only two games and you can't let your guard down because that can cost you qualification, so you need to double your focus."