FC Porto plays Zenit for survival in Champs League
PORTO, Portugal (AP) -A showdown between Zenit St. Petersburg and FC Porto on Tuesday will decide which of them advances to the next round of the Champions League.
With APOEL already qualified from Group G, becoming the first Cypriot side ever to make the knockout round, two-time champion Porto needs to beat the Russian team to stay in the tournament.
Zenit, which rallied to defeat Porto 3-1 in St. Petersburg, will go through with a draw.
"The first one to let their guard down will be out,'' Porto goalkeeper Helton said.
Both teams could still deny APOEL from taking the top spot in the group. The Cypriot club has nine points, one more than Zenit and two more than Porto. APOEL won and drew against its two closest rivals. Last-place Shakhtar Donetsk has only two points.
Zenit, looking for its first appearance in the last 16, is coming off a 2-1 victory over Lokomotiv Moscow that kept it at the top of the Russian league, six points clear of second-place CSKA Moscow, ahead of a three-month winter break.
"The team is in good physical shape at the end of the season,'' Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti said. "I have no doubts that we will play a good game against Porto.''
Midfielder Roman Shirokov, who has scored three goals in five Champions League matches, said the onus will be on the home team to make the running.
"Porto will be on attack and it will give us chances,'' he said.
Porto, winner of last season's Europa League, hasn't missed the knockout round since the 2005-06 season and is unbeaten in the Portuguese league since February 2010. The Portuguese champions have lost only one of 10 European games at home this season.
But their form has been uneven this season since Vitor Pereira took over as coach after the departure of Andre Villas-Boas to Chelsea. A three-game winless streak last month brought calls for Pereira's dismissal.
Colombia international James Rodriguez made a bright start to the season, quickly becoming the team's top scorer with five goals, but he hasn't scored for Porto in two months.
Rodriguez said wins against Shakhtar and Braga in the Portuguese league have helped restore the team's confidence.
"We weren't playing well but the two victories were important for us. I think we're playing a lot better now,'' he said.
Porto has central defender Eliaquim Mangala back from a thigh strain but midfielder Freddy Guarin is still unavailable because of a muscle strain.
APOEL striker Ailton Almeida is out with a nagging abdominal muscle pain, leaving the way open for Macedonia striker Ivan Trickovski in the match against Shakhtar.
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