GMS Academy member Brendan Bernegger takes his time to break down the Champions League Group G, predicting who is likely to qualify and who will stumble.
The 27 time Portuguese Champions come into this Champions League looking weaker than they have in a long time. After losing James Rodriguez and João Moutinho to AS Monaco, Porto are still trying to find a playmaker to assist hot-scoring Colombian Jackson Martinez.
After winning the league in dramatic fashion last year, the club are trying to escape the group stages for the second consecutive year after they finished second in their group last year. In the end, Porto suffered a shock defeat and were eliminated in the round of 16 by Malaga.
Porto were an active spender this transfer window, as they brought their transfer spending total above €30 million.
They first signed Hector Herrera and Diego Reyes. Herrera signed from Mexican team Puebla for a reported €8million, while Diego Reyes signed from CF America for €7million. Reyes was a huge part of the Club America team who won the 2013 Mexican Clausura.
They look to be in a tough situation as they are in a group that any team looks capable of winning besides Austria Wien. Porto open up against Austria Wien in Vienna on the 18th of September.
If Porto still had the likes of Rodriguez and Moutinho, they would win the group but since they don't, it looks as though Porto will end up in the Europa League as Atletico Madrid and Zenit St Petersburg may outmuscle them.
Similar to Porto, Atletico Madrid begin a new season without a star player. Goal-scoring machine, Radamel Falcao packed his bags and headed to Monaco.
Falcao accounted for 28 of the 65 goals scored by Atletico in La Liga games. Falcao was such a force for Atletico that he nearly fired them ahead in the table of their city rivals Real Madrid. Atletico controlled that number-two spot for 24 weeks before Madrid stole it from them.
Despite losing Falcao, Atletico strengthened their team on all fronts. Falcao has been replaced by two players, one player is a young 21-year-old Brazilian named Leo Baptistão. The 21-year-old transferred to Atletico from Rayo Vallecano for a fee around €7 million.
Atletico then acquired the services of David Villa from Barcelona. Villa joined for about €5.1 million and will bring great experience throughout the season.
Last but not least, Atletico did improve their defence as they signed Belgium international defender Toby Alderweireld. Alderweireld joined from Ajax for a fee set to be in the region of €7million.
Atletico has a team that contains exciting youth talent and players who have experience. They are also trying to prove that there are not just two main teams in Spain. Atletico should win the group with flair and style.
Zenit Saint Petersburg
Zenit Saint Petersburg recorded a second place finish last year in the Russian league to assure a third round qualifying spot in the Champions League. After ripping Nordsjælland apart in the third round, Zenit then crushed Paços de Ferreira to assure a spot in the group stages.
Lead by Luciano Spalletti, Zenit are not trying to falter like they did last year. Zenit was set to finish in second place of a group that consisted of Malaga, Milan and Anderlecht. Malaga shocked us all and won the group with Milan finishing in second.
Zenit was sent down to the Europa League where they drew Liverpool in the Round of 32. Zenit picked up a 3-3 away goal victory and played Basel in the Round of 16 before they were eliminated by the Swiss giants.
Despite losing defensive midfielder Igor Denisov to Anzhi Makhachkala, and losing Bruno Alves to Fenerbahce, Zenit made some great signings. Zenit spent about €14.8 million and got some class talent.
Zenit improved their defensive wings by signing Igor Smolnikov from FK Krasnodar for about €6 million. The Russians then signed speedster left back Cristian Ansaldi from Rubin Kazan.
Afterward they signed two veterans on a free transfer. Andrey Arshavin returns back to Russia after having little to no impact in England. Arshavin spent four years with Arsenal and fell out of favour with manager Arsene Wenger.
The second signing was Anatoliy Tymoshchuk as he joined from Bayern Munich. Tymoshchuk returns to Zenit after being in Munich for four seasons. Signing both players adds great experience to their club. Zenit opens up group on the 18th of September in Madrid. Zenit should finish second and progress to the Round of 16.
Austrian champions Austria Wien are back in the Champions League after making their last appearance in 2003.
"Die Veilchen" started their run to the group stage in the third qualifying round as they defeated Icelandic Champion FH 1-0 on aggregate. Then, to the surprise of many people, Wien defeated Dinamo Zagreb 2-0 in Zagreb. In Vienna, Zagreb won 2-3, but it didn't matter as Austria Wien still won 4-3 on aggregate.
Out of all the possible groups, you can say that the Vienna club dodged a bullet. Yet again, they won't be able to compete with the talent around them and they will crash out in the group stages and finish in fourth.
1. Atletico Madrid
2. Zenit Saint Petersburg
4. Austria Wien
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