Know Paris Saint-Germain's rivals in Champions League Group C

New manager Laurent Blanc prepares to lead PSG into this season's Champions League. Brendon Netto looks at what the Ligue 1 champions will face in the group stages.
 Brendon Netto
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Performance in last year's tournament: Finished 3rd in their group to enter the Europa League.

How they qualified this year: Finished 2nd in the Portuguese League to earn automatic qualification.
The Manager

After 20 years of management at various clubs across Portugal, Jorge Jesus was appointed as Benfica manager in the summer of 2009 and delivered the league title in his first season after a five-year wait. He is yet to win it again and came agonizingly close last season. However, he did win three consecutive Portuguese League Cups and made it to the finals of the Europa League and Portuguese Cup last season. His high-tempo style of play has made Benfica a threat to any side. 

Formation and Tactics


Benfica employ a 4-1-3-2 system which is fairly attack-minded but often revert to a 4-3-3 as well. Former Chelsea man, Nemanja Matic anchors the midfield with authority, shielding the back four and feeding the players ahead of him. He plays an integral role in their system. Nicolas Gaitan and Eduardo Salvio offer plenty of penetration down the wings while the prolific strike partnership of Lima and Oscar Cardozo operate down the middle. One of the two strikers will often drop deep and operate closer to Enzo Perez who features in an attacking midfield role, Lima is likely to peel off on most occasions. Meanwhile, the defense incorporate a high-line and squeezes play into the opponent's half. The attacking players press the opposition relentlessly without the ball and often force them into mistakes, allowing them to break swiftly on the counter. The energy and tempo of their game is key.


Advancing from the group stages has to be their minimum objective and they'd back themselves to go even further.

  Man to Watch - Oscar Cardozo

Benfica's new signing last season, Lima enjoyed a fantastic first season with his new club scoring 30 goals in 49 games but that didn't phase Oscar Cardozo one bit. The Paraguayan rose to the challenge and scored 33 goals in 46 games, thereby reinforcing his position in the team. While the duo can play together, one is often sacrificed for the other in a 4-3-3 formation. Cardozo's ability over a dead-ball gives him a slight edge as does his knack of coming good in big games. He's mobile and strong enough to lead the line on his own but also operates well with a partner up front. He's renowned for his emphatic finishing and was preferred over Lima in last season's Europa League final against Chelsea in which he scored despite losing the game 2-1.


Performance in last year's tournament: Finished 3rd in their group and entered the Europa League.

How they qualified this year: Won the Greek league title to earn automatic qualification.

The Manager

Michel enjoyed a 14-year spell with Real Madrid as a player having graduated from their academy and even managed fourth place in the 1987 Ballon d'Or draw. After his playing career, he worked as a commentator and even wrote articles for Marca before being named manager of Rayo Vallecano. His stint with the third division club was followed by another year-long stint with Real Madrid 'B' before he was appointed manager of Getafe in 2009. After a spell at Sevilla, he joined Olympiacos last season and immediately won the league title and Greek Football Cup. 

Formation and Tactics


Olympiacos set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Javier Saviola's experience is likely to earn him a starting berth ahead of Kostas Mitroglou while fellow new signing Vladimir Weiss and Joel Campbell should take up their positions on the flanks. The blistering pace of the two young wingers play a big part in attack with another new arrival, Alejandro Dominguez likely to feed them the ball from his attacking midfield role. Andreas Samaris and Giannis Maniatis anchor the midfield and offer plenty of defensive cover.


The Greek side will be aiming to secure a spot in the Europa League but a good result against Benfica could well see them vying for second place as well. They managed to finish third in their group last time around.

  Man to Watch - Javier Saviola

Kostas Mitroglou's place in the starting line-up is under threat following Javier Saviola's arrival this summer. The Argentine joined Olympiacos from Benfica and already has two goals and an assist to his name from his first three appearances. At 31, the diminutive striker may have lost some pace but he retains his goal-poaching instincts and finishing touch while the Greek side seem keen to avail of his experience in the Champions League.


Performance in last year's tournament: Finished bottom of their group.

How they qualified this year: Won the Belgian Pro League to earn automatic qualification.

The Manager

John van den Brom enjoyed a long career as a player primarily with Vitesse and Ajax. After starting off as the head scout for De Graafschap while managing amateur side Bennekom, he was made head coach of Ajax's reserve side before taking over at AGOVV Apeldoorn. Following season-long successful stints at ADO Den Haag and Vitesse, with whom he qualified for the Europa League, he took over the reins at Anderlecht. In his first season, he's won the Belgian Super Cup and the league title while producing an attractive brand of football.

Formation and Tactics


Anderlecht play a 4-3-3 system with a double pivot midfield. Their two central midfielders work tirelessly to shield the defense and occasionally get forward. Dennis Praet plays ahead of the duo as an attacking midfielder and orchestrates proceedings in the final third while Massimo Bruno and Frank Acheampong support Matias Suarez in attack. The Belgian side do try and play an attractive brand of football with the front four in particular given licence to express themselves. Meanwhile, the defensive duo of Bram Nuytinck and Cheikhou Kouyate offers plenty of steel at the back.


Arguably the weakest team in the group, Anderlecht will be content with a third place finish. They were fourth in their Champions League group last season.

  Man to Watch - Dennis Praet

Belgium have been producing some great technical players of late and Dennis Praet is another one of them while his teammate Massimo Bruno is also making a mark in the side. The 19 year-old already enjoyed a good campaign last time around and this season could be one in which he establishes himself as a star. The attacking midfielder is composed on the ball, possesses excellent vision and is more than capable of beating a man. His finishing isn't quite as polished as the rest of his game and his slight frame is a concern but one would imagine that he'll improve on those fronts as he matures. He had 6 goals and 8 assists last season and will be looking to kick-on this term.

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