Every day, we at 32 Flags will preview each group in the UEFA Champions League as we build up to the first group stage games of the competition. Today, we are previewing Group H.
Group H has room to be one of the more interesting groups.While there are favorites to win this group; there are relatively smaller clubs in Group H as compared to some of the other groups. Any team could put up a fight and advance to the knockout stage as long as they can win at home. Positions and advancement in this group could come down to goal differential.
Group H Teams and Country (Position in UEFA Coefficient/Position in UEFA Coefficient Compared to Just Last Season):
Athletic Bilbao/Spain (No. 37/No. 37)
FC BATE Borisov/Belarus (No. 54/No. 65)
FC Porto/Portugal (No. 11/No. 10)
Shaktar Donetsk/Ukraine (No. 19/No. 18)
Player to watch in Group H: Aritz Adruiz (Athletic Bilbao)
The forward for Athletic who had two goals in the play in playoff round win against Napoli. Look for him to lead the attack for Athletic throughout their campaign. He is a veteran player who can stick the ball in the net; which is exactly what you need in this ultra competitive group.
X- Factor in Group H: The Ukrainian Situation
With Donetsk under pro Russian rebel control their have been many problems for the football club. There were reports of rebels storming the clubs headquarters as well as players refusing to return to the Ukraine earlier in the summer. Shaktar is not even playing games in their home stadium due to the crisis. As a result they have to play in Lviv, Ukraine. The political crisis could have a huge impact on how well they do in this group.
Percentage of Advancing out of Group Stage ( According to ESPN’s SPI Index):
Shaktar Donetsk: 63.3%
Athletic Bilbao: 61.2%
FC Porto: 50.8%
FC BATE Borisov: 24.7%
Most Important Game: FC Porto vs. Athletic Bilbao, Matchday 3 October 21st
The battle of the Iberian Peninsula. This will be a huge game for both teams. Depending on how things are going for Shaktar this may be for the top spot in the group. The fact that the two play again straight away on matchday 4 makes this match basically a two leg playoff as Shaktar gets to play FC BATE while these two battle it out.
Teams to Move On: Athletic and Shaktar Donetsk
Team to Move On to Europa: FC Porto