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Diego Simione prepares to lead Atletico Madrid into this season's Champions League. Brendon Netto looks at what the La Liga outfit will face in the group stages.

 Brendon Netto
 ANALYSIS | EUROPE
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FC Porto


Performance in last year's tournament: Eliminated by Malaga in the round of 16.

How they qualified this year: Won the Portuguese league to earn automatic qualification.
 
The Manager

Paulo Fonseca managed 5 clubs since 2007 before taking over FC Porto this summer. As manager of Pacos de Ferreira last season, he led them to a third place finish and hence secured a spot in the Champions League for the club for the first time in their history. His exploits with the unfancied Portuguese outfit earned him the job at Porto. 

Formation and Tactics

4-3-3

It's a new season and once again, Porto have a new look about them. Being the perennial 'selling club' that they are, this summer saw them lose Rolando, James Rodriguez, Joao Moutinho and Christian Atsu to the bigger clubs, albeit for handsome fees. They still set up in a 4-3-3 formation but the midfield triangle has been inverted. Fernando used to sit behind Moutinho and Lucho Gonzalez but this season, the Brazilian plays alongside new signing, Steven Defour while Gonzalez plays ahead of the duo. Other new recruits Juan Quintero and Hector Herrera are yet to establish themselves in the starting eleven. Jackson Martinez's powerful center-forward play is ably supported by Josue and Lica down the flanks.

Expectations:

Porto must be keen on ensuring a place in the knockout stages given that they've avoided the 'big guns' in their group. Atletico are arguably the strongest but the Portuguese club should be capable of making the top two.

  Man to Watch - Jackson Martinez

Goals win games and in Jackson Martinez, Porto have a relentless goal-machine. The Colombian scored 31 goals in 40 appearances in his debut season for the club last term. He is an out-and-out goalscorer, clinical in front of goal, quick and strong, comfortable with both feet and a threat in the air. He is a center-back's nightmare and with so many top players gone this summer, they will need him at his best once again.


Zenit St. Petersburg


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

How they qualified this year: Second in the Russian Premier League and entered via play-offs.

The Manager

Following an impressive spell with Udinese, Luciano Spalletti made a real impact at AS Roma’s as he won two Coppa Italia titles with the club. Zenit snapped him up after his resignation from his post at Roma and the Italian immediately delivered. He won two league titles along with a Russian Cup and the Super Cup in his first two seasons. Unfortunately, the Russian side went trophyless last season but the former Roma manager is still held in high regard for his tactical acumen.
Formation and Tactics

4-3-3

Spalletti sets his side up in a 4-3-3 formation although he is known to revert to the 4-2-3-1 system he employed back in Italy. Alexandre Kerzhakov leads the attack as the lone striker. The Russian is ably supported by two inverted wingers in Hulk and Danny who are both more than capable of getting on the score sheet, while Andrei Arshavin has largely featured from the bench this season. Axel Witsel is responsible for distributing the ball and acts as their playmaker in central midfiel and is partnered by Roman Shirokov. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk anchors the midfield and protects the back four.

Expectations:

Zenit should be optimistic about their chances of advancing from this group. Atletico Madrid and Porto will take some beating but the Russians will know that if either one of those teams slip up, they'll be in with a shout. Anything beyond the round of 16 will be a bonus.

  Man to Watch - Danny

There are bigger names in this Zenit side than Danny - Witsel, Hulk and Andrei Arshavin to name a few but the Portuguese winger is a real threat as well. He has endured a couple of injury-plagued seasons but is now fit and seemingly back to his best. He's already scored 8 goals and made 4 assists in 12 games this season. With a couple of tricks, a decent turn of pace and intelligent play, Danny is certainly one to watch.


Austria Wien

Performance in last year's tournament: Did not qualify.

How they qualified this year: Won the Austrian Bundesliga and made it through the play-offs.

The Manager

Nenad Bjelica began his managerial career as a player-coach at FC Karnten in 2007. He soon retired and took up the managerial post full time. He took over Lustenau for a year in 2009 before spending 3 years in charge at WAC St. Andra. He was appointed as coach of Austria Wien this summer and has gone on to defeat Croation champions Dinamo Zagreb in the play-offs to make it to the group stages of this season's Champions League.

Formation and Tactics

4-3-3

Wien employs a 4-3-3 system with Australian defensive midfielder James Holland shielding the defense with his relentless tracking back, tackling and smart use of the ball. Marko Stankovic and Florian Mader play ahead of him. Philipp Hosiner was their top scorer by far last season and he will lead their attack while being supported by Daniel Royer and Tomas Jun down the flanks. They also have an attacking threat from the full-back position in the form of Markus Suttner who chipped in with 3 goals and 8 assists last season.

Expectations:


They are clearly the weakest team in this group and although they would love to finish third to secure a place in the Europa League, even that seems out of their reach. They'll be looking to give their best and hopefully leave a mark on the tournament with one or two decent results.

  Man to Watch - Philipp Hosiner

Philipp Hosiner is quite clearly Wien's superstar. His first season with the club in the 2011-12 campaign was a successful one as the striker notched up 18 goals. However, his stock sky-rocketed last season as he scored 36 goals and made 11 assists in just 42 appearances. At only 24, Hosiner may have a bright future a head of him elsewhere as he's begun this season as well with 4 goals and 4 assists in 12 outings.

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