Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid players attend a training session ahead of their Champions League group stage encounter against Zenit St. Petersburg, September 17Reuters

An intriguing game is in prospect when Atletico Madrid and Zenit St. Petersburg lock horns in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Atletico will be charged up for the encounter after finding themselves back in Europe's elite competition after a few seasons in the Europa League.

Manager Diego Simeone has gone from strength to strength at Atletico, and the Spanish side look strong this year despite losing their talisman Radamel Falcao to Monaco.

In David Villa they have a striker who has been there and done everything, and Atletico will rely on the experience of the Spain international to bail them out of tough situations, which are bound to crop up.

Striker Diego Costa and playmaker Arda Turan have also been in sparkling form this season in the La Liga, where Atletico have maintained a perfect record.

But the Champions League is completely another cup of tea and Simeone will be wary of the threat posed by the experienced Zenit side.

"Zenit are a big club with financial power and a side ready to be a great team in Europe," Simeone said. "They have a lot of experience in this competition. If you don't focus out on the pitch they will create problems.

"Day by day we are getting better offensively. We play a little differently to how they normally play in Spain, and by that I mean we play in a way that could be closer to Italian football. We are improving in the transition from defence to attack."

On paper Atletico are probably the favourites along with Porto to advance to the last-16, but Simeone, desperate to temper the expectations, believes Zenit have the advantage over them due to their experience of playing in the Champions League in recent seasons.

"Zenit and Porto are favourites in the group because of the experience they have at this level," he added. "We are still growing. If we play with humility and as a team we have a chance."

Zenit have not quite hit the heights expected of them in Europe and manager Luciano Spalletti will be hoping for a better campaign this time around.

Team News: Atletico will have to do without the services of the in-form Diego Costa, who is suspended, with Adrian Lopez expected to come in in his stead.

"Adrian Lopez is training well," Simeone said. "He had a great preseason. He hasn't played many minutes in the opening games, but he is a player who can make the necessary jump in quality for a match like this. If Adrian comes in for Diego Costa, that doesn't mean we are going to play a 4-4-2."

Miranda, though, is available after missing the weekend's action through illness.

For Zenit, they received a big fillip after Hulk started training while Aleksandr Anyukov misses out through injury.

Where to watch

The game is scheduled for a kickoff on Thursday morning (12.15 am IST) with the match not scheduled for a Live telecast.

Expected lineups: Atletico Madrid: Courtois; Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Filipe Luis; Koke, Tiago, Gabi, Turan, Adrian, Villa.

Zenit St. Petersburg: Lodygin; Anyukov, Hubocan, Neto, Smolnikov; Witsel, Shirokov, Fayzulin, Danny; Arshavin, Kerzhakov.

Prediction: 2-1 to Atletico