Champions League Group G profile: Foxes get favourable pool on debut
Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | September 9, 2016
Champions League Group F profile
With European football back on our screens this September, Coral experts give Champions League Group G tips, as we examine all eight pools for the best punts and profile the teams, players and coaches.
This pool features competition new boys and shock Premier League champions Leicester City, as well as two-time European Cup winners Porto, 1977/78 finalists Club Brugge and FC Copenhagen.
From a betting perspective, the Foxes certainly have every chance of making it to the knockout phase either by topping the group (11/8 second-favourites) or finishing in the top two (odds-on at 1/3). Portuguese giants Porto will be the obvious danger, while Claudio Ranieri’s men should be able to topple the other two.
Let’s look at the four teams in more detail…
While it is Leicester’s first-ever appearance in the European Cup/Champions League, let alone as top seeds, they have actually previously played in Europe three times before.
They qualified for the 1961/62 European Cup Winners’ Cup as losing finalists in the FA Cup the season before due to their conquerors Tottenham also winning the league. While, under Martin O’Neill many years later took part in the UEFA Cup twice after claiming the League Cup in 1996/97 and 1999/00.
The Foxes never progressed past the first round in all three previous attempts in European competition, though do have a victory to their name against Northern Irish team Glenavon in the European Cup Winners’ Cup preliminary round.
Leicester will be happy to avoid Atletico Madrid this time out, as the Spanish outfit have knocked them out of Europe twice before, and they undoubtedly have their best ever chance of progressing far this campaign.
Football fans across the globe are intrigued how the Foxes will fare in the Champions League this season, after their fairytale Premier League triumph, and it is perhaps surprising that they’ve managed to keep all but one of their key players.
The loss of N’Golo Kante to Chelsea has left a huge hole in midfield, but the East Midlanders have splashed out on a number of new recruits to bolster their squad as they aim to challenge in an extra competition.
Ranieri has largely picked starting XIs this term consisting of stars from the previous campaign, but the likes of midfielder Nampalys Mendy and African forwards Ahmed Musa and Islam Slimani will play a big part as the season progresses.
Bartosz Kapustka, Luis Hernandez and Ron-Robert Zieler also provide more options for the Italian boss.
If you fancy Leicester to do, well, a Leicester, and upset the odds to win the Champions League, then odds of 40/1 are available in the outright market.
Porto have plenty of pedigree in Europe, having won this tournament twice (in 1986/87 and then 2003/04 under a young Jose Mourinho) as well as the UEFA Cup/Europa League in 2002/03 and 2010/11.
However, they are going through somewhat of dry spell in terms of claiming silverware, having not lifted anything of note since the Primeira Liga in 2012/13.
Despite that, they are still the favourites both to win this group (5/4) and qualify from it (1/3), after failing to do so last season as they finished third behind Chelsea and Dynamo Kiev.
The Dragons have largely managed to keep their key players this summer, while have bolstered their backline and attack with Alex Telles, Felipe, Willy Boly, Laurent Depoitre, Ze Manuel and Joao Teixeira. Miguel Layun also signs permanently after a successful loan spell from Watford last term.
Iker Casillas stays in goal for Porto this season, while there is a strong Mexican contingent of Jesus Corona and captain Hector Herrera. They also kept hold of Yacine Brahimi and Olivier Torres is back on loan.
Porto are taking part in the Champions League main draw for the sixth successive season, and under new boss and their former keeper Nuno can hope to at least replicate their quarter-final achievement in 2014/15.
Belgian side Club Brugge have qualified for the Champions League group stage for the first time in over a decade after winning their domestic top-flight title.
They won’t fancy their chances against Leicester, though, as they have a poor record with English teams in the past, having lost both their European finals against Liverpool (1977/78 European Cup and 1975/76 UEFA Cup).
The Blue-Black have also failed to beat Manchester United, Newcastle United, Birmingham City and Spurs across seven matches in recent times.
Brugge have also lost out to Porto before, but have had mixed success against Copenhagen – beating the latter 4-0 in the 2014/15 Europe League group stage.
The Belgians lost star right back Thomas Meunier to PSG this summer, but brought in Dutch international Ricardo van Rhijn from Ajax to replace him. Tomas Pina and Anthony Limbombe have also joined for relatively cheap fees.
Striker Jelle Vossen will be a familiar face to Middlesbrough fans and also briefly turned out for Burnley before returning to his homeland. Bjorn Engels in defence, meanwhile, was been linked with Arsenal this summer.
Although a former force in Europe, it seems unlikely that Brugge will progress to the knockout rounds, but are 11/8 third-favourites to do so or 5/1 to somehow top the pool.
Last and most definitely least, according to Coral’s odds of 12/1 to win the group and 9/4 to qualify anyway, Danish capital club FC Copenhagen are the pool outsiders but should by no means be whipping boys.
The Lions, as they are nicknamed, were only formed as they are in 1992, but have already progressed as far as the last 16 in the Champions League in 2010/11 when they finished just four points behind Barcelona in the group stage and ahead of Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos.
Of their current squad, Stephan Andersen (Charlton Athletic), William Kvist (Wigan Athletic and Fulham), Andreas Cornelius (Cardiff City), Jan Gregus (Bolton Wanderers) and Jores Okore (Aston Villa) have all turned out for British clubs.
Champions League Group G games
All matches are 19:45 UK time.
Wednesday, September 14th
Club Brugge v Leicester City
Porto v FC Copenhagen
Tuesday, September 27th
FC Copenhagen v Club Brugge
Leicester City v Porto
Tuesday, October 18th
Club Brugge v Porto
Leicester City v FC Copenhagen
Wednesday, November 2nd
FC Copenhagen v Leicester City
Porto v Club Brugge
Tuesday, November 22nd
FC Copenhagen v Porto
Leicester City v Club Brugge
Wednesday, December 7th
Club Brugge v FC Copenhagen
Porto v Leicester City
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