CARD KING Gavin Murphy (@GamePlanGavin) has been in superb shape of late. Can he continue his hot streak with another bookings bet from Russia?
Zenit St Petersburg v Benfica | Wednesday 17.00 | BT Sport Europe
Benfica come up against a Portuguese coach and three former players as they bid to get past Zenit and reach the Champions League quarter-finals again.
The Portuguese club hold a slender lead in the tie thanks to an added-time Jonas strike in the Lisbon first leg.
There were nine cards in that first meeting and eight the ocassion before that in a group stage contest between the two teams.
Hands up, who’s heard of Vicktor Kassai? He’s the Hungarian referee who’s in charge of this one.
Perhaps not a household name, he has officiated some big games, such as the 2011 Champions League final between Barcelona and Man Utd (four yellows), the semi-final between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in 2012 (seven yellows) and Bayern Munich v Barcelona in 2013 (seven yellows).
Kassai last officiated a match at this stage in 2014 when he dished out five yellows and a red in the contest between Bayer Leverkusen and PSG. In four career games in charge of Benfica, this ref has given the Eagles 3.50 cards-per-game. He has yet to officiate Zenit.
Benfica may be jaded after winning the Lisbon derby against Sporting on Saturday night. But they will surely be desperate to preserve their advantage in this do or die encounter.
I looked at the card make-ups in the equivalent games in last year’s Champions League last-16 games and total cards figures read 9-5-3-7-6-7-1-2. Obviously not all remained competitive after the first leg but as a rough guide, half of the eight matches featured six or more cards.
This tie is certainly competitive after the first leg and with a high number of cards in recent meetings between the two clubs, I’m confidently backing Over 55 Bookings Points at 8/11 with William Hill.
Zenit St Petersburg v Benfica – Over 55 Bookings Points (8/11 William Hill)
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