Champions League 2015/16 profiles: Porto
Portuguese giants Porto will meet an old ally in Group G, a pool they are 3/1 second favourites to win with Coral, as the Dragons prepare to duel with Chelsea, Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Domestic League: Primeira Liga
How they qualified: The Iberian outfit clinched second place in the Primeira Liga last season which, although a disappointment for the ambitious Oporto club, assured them of an automatic place in the draw.
Best Champions League era performance: Porto last claimed Europe’s most prestigious club prize in 2004, with an emphatic 3-0 final win over Monaco. That famous team, bossed by a certain bullish, touchline-sprinting Jose Mourinho, who they will now face against Chelsea, notably knocked out Manchester United along the way.
Coach: Julen Lopetegui. The Spanish coach, a former custodian for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, nabbed perhaps Portuguese club football’s most prestigious job due to fine work with the Spain Under-21 team.
Canny Lopetegui has since used his Iberian connections to lure several Spaniards to the Estadio do Dragao in his two summers in charge, but needs to land silverware this term, after coming out pot-less in the previous one.
Ins and outs: Spain stopper Iker Casillas, former Benfica right back Maxi Pereira, controversial ex-Southampton striker Pablo Osvaldo and attacking midfielder Alberto Bueno make up a quartet of Bosman arrivals who could be brilliant.
The Dragons made a pair of Premier League loans, leasing Aston Villa-owned left back Aly Cissokho, once a permanent Porto player, and Watford’s Miguel Layun, while also forking out for midfield battle-axe Giannelli Imbula.
Meanwhile, departing the Estadio do Dragao was potent marksman Jackson Martinez, plus flying full back pair Danilo and Alex Sandro, who were plucked away by Real Madrid and Juventus respectively.
Familiar faces: Cissokho, Osvaldo and Layun will of course be known to fans of English football, for better or worse. Spain supporters, though, will be eagerly keeping an eye on keeper Casillas and Barca young-gun Cristian Tello, who stays on loan for a second season.
Key player: With the exits of key players, commanding centre half Maicon Pereira Roque has become ever-more important in marshaling the backline. The bold Brazilian defender is now in his seventh season with the Dragons.
Ones to watch: Cameroon sharpshooter Vincent Aboubakar has been shouldered with the striking burden but has provided in spades so far, with three in three games.
Adaptable Algerian attacking midfielder Yacine Brahimi, though, will be the one to provide spark and could prove a match-winner in this tight group.
Emerging talent: Talented flank threat Tello is still yet to reach his ceiling, while Portuguese midfield prodigies Sergio Oliveira and Ruben Neves are also worth keeping tabs on.
CL group and fixtures:
v Dynamo Kiev (Away), September 16th
v Chelsea (Home), September 29th
v Maccabi Tel Aviv (Home), October 20th
v Macabbi Tel Aviv (Away), November 4th
v Dynamo Kiev (Home), November 24th
v Chelsea (Away), December 9th