It has been called by many the easiest group in Champions League history. But with three national Champions and a two-time winner of the competition Group G proves that there is a lot more to these games than meets the eye. Below we preview the men to watch and predict where each club will finish.
League Position 2015/2016: 1st
Manager: Claudio Ranieri
Nickname: The Foxes
One to watch: Daniel Amartey
The Ghanian arrived in the January window with great promise but as of yet the 21-year-old has not been able to assert himself, making only six appearances for the Foxes. Expect that to change this season as the demand of extra games leaves Ranieri with no choice but to rotate his squad, something the Italian was reluctant to do last season. Be prepared then to see Amartey stake his claim. As an added to twist to this tale Amartey will come up against his former club when Leicester take on Copenhagen in round three. The midfielder will undoubtedly be desperate to prove to his worth to the fans and prove to his former employers that heading to England was the right decision.
Do not let Leicester’s poor pre-season and underwhelming start to the Premier League campaign fool you, they are a forced to be reckoned with in this years Champions League. The English Champions have surprised many, perhaps even themselves, by being able to hold on to most of the core players that won them the title. Apart from Kante, who left for Chelsea, the team has been pretty much unaltered. Not only has Ranieri managed to keep the squad relatively intact but he has also been able to strengthen in key areas. Striker Ahmed Musa, goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler and midfielder Nampalys Mendy have come in from CSKA Moscow, Hannover and Nice respectively.
Predicted Finish: (2nd) Lack of Champions League experience may cost Leicester, especially in the away games. That being said they should have enough quality to overcome both Brügge and Copenhagen at home.
League Position 2015/2016: 3rd
Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo
Nickname: Dragões (Dragons)
One to watch: André Silva
Silva may wear the number 10 but his game epitomises that of a complete number 9. Since making his debut, during the latter part of last season, the former Salgueiros man has managed an incredible 11 goals in 12 games, albeit some of those goals have come in pre-season friendlies. That being said such has been the quality of Silva’s performances that the boy who was born in Gondomar has managed to displace Vincent Aboubakar and become Porto’s undisputed starting striker this season. Rumour has it that Silva has impressed Fernando Santos enough to warrant a call-up to the Portugal national team for their next round internationals. If Silva can maintain his incredible goal scoring record in Champions League then it wont be too long before many of the worlds elite clubs come calling.
In the last few years Porto has somewhat lost their mojo. A succession of underwhelming managers combined with poor transfer decisions- something the Portuguese outfit is known to be normally brilliant at- has seen the club decline. To put that decline in perspective, it has been four whole years since Porto last won a trophy. This season under the guidance of former Valencia boss Nuno Espirito Santo it is hoped that the once dominant Porto can rise again. Porto’s plan to re-find their mojo has seen them change strategy somewhat. Gone are the days of finding the next great thing abroad. The Azuis e Brancos are now hoping that a young and predominately Portuguese group of academy prospects such as André Silva and Rúben Neves will return the club to their former glories.
Statistics game: This season Porto will participate in the Champions League group stage for the 21st time in their history, putting them on par with Real Madrid and Barcelona and ahead of Manchester United.
Predicted finish: (1st) Porto should be able to achieve a 100% record in the home ties. A draw away to Leicester in the second round may be enough for the Drag?es to seal top stop in group G.
Club Brügge KV
League Position 2015/2016: 1st
Manager: Michel Preud’homme
Nickname: Blauw-Zwart (Blue-Black)
One to watch: Abdoulay Diaby
Yet another young prodigious forward to look out for. After scoring 15 goals in 30 games in his debut season in Belgium the 25 year-old is being touted as Africa’s next big thing. The diminutive Malian tore defences in the Jupiler League with his main asset, his blistering pace. The rest of the clubs in group G would do well to plan against a smash and grab on Brugge’s away trips, with Diaby’s Jamie Vardy like pace the weapon of choice.
Despite losing the final of the Belgian Cup to rivals Standard Liège, Club Brügge had what can only be described as an amazing season. The Blauw-Zwart managed to end an excruciating 11-year wait to finally claim the Belgian title. The club made up for the cup final loss by beating their fiercest rivals Anderlecht 4-0 at home and in doing so Brügge secured their 14th league title, with two games to spare. Manager Michel Preud’homme will no doubt be hoping that his side is able to take all the confidence and momentum gained from last seasons incredible feat and translate it into Champions League success.
Statistics game: Brügge hold the record for being the only Belgian club to have reached the final of Europe’s main competition. In 1978 the club reached the final of the European Champions Clubs’ Cup, losing 1-0 to Liverpool.
Predicted finish: (4th) Despite being blessed with Diaby’s pace and riding a wave of confidence Brügge will still struggle to keep-up with the rest of the teams in Group G. That being said do not be surprised if they manage a shock away victory. However when all is said and done still expect them to finish bottom of the group.
League Position 2015/2016: 1st
Manager: Ståle Solbakken
Nickname: Løverne (The Lions)
One to watch: Mathias Jørgensen
After an unsuccessful stint at PSV Danish international Mathias Jørgensen returned to Copenhagen in 2014 and has since gone on to establish himself as a key part of Ståle Solbakken’s team. Copenhagen’s vice-captain is a leader and calming influence on the pitch and not to mention a nuisance from set pieces. Expect his 6ft 3 frame to cause many nervy defences issues during the group stage.
Round-up: Copenhagen dominated the Danish League last season. After gaining 1st position in the 13th round, the club managed to maintain that position until the very end of the campaign to claim their 14th league title. The club currently count on the services of one-time Cardiff forward, Andreas Cornelius and Paraguay international Federico Santander.
Statistics game: Copenhagen went on the longest unbeaten run in the Danish League last season managing to avoid defeat for nine consecutive games.
Predicted Finish: (3rd) Travelling to Copenhagen in the middle of winter will not be easy for any of the teams in Group G. Expect the Løverne to capitalise on that to claim the Europa League spot.
Do you agree with my predictions for Group G? Do you think any of these teams can win the Champions League? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section below.