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 G.
Group G looks to be a two horse race but their could be a surprise at who grabs the Europa spot. The top two in the group will be the boys from the big leagues Chelsea and Schalke 04 respectfully. The English 3rd place team of last year and the 3rd place German team just have too much depth and talent for the others. The other two teams, NK Maribor, the Slovenian champs, and Sporting from Portugal, will battle each other for the right to play a little longer in Europe. There could be a couple of eye catching results in this group both surprising and abnormal.
Group G Teams and Country (Position in UEFA Coefficient/Position in UEFA Coefficient Compared to Just Last Season):
Chelsea/England (No. 4/ No. 4)
Schalke 04/Germany (No. 9/No. 14)
Sporting/Portugal (No. 33/ No. 33)
NK Maribor/Slovenia (No. 90/No. 123)
Player to watch in Group G: Petr Cech (Chelsea)
Will Jose Mourinho use the formula that helped win Real Madrid the title last year? That is keeping competition specific goalkeepers to keep them fresh and motivated. With Courtouis manning the gloves during the EPL season it would be wise to let an experienced keeper like Cech work between the woodwork during the intense Champions League. Either goalie that starts will be an asset to the team but Cech knows how to win a title.
X- Factor in Group G: NK Maribor
This group looks pretty straightforward on paper. The big clubs should advance with little problems. Maribor is a team that could change the complexion of the group. If the team from Slovenia is able to pull off a couple of good results at home; the group could be tighter than most expect. Look for them to fight hard and try to at least battle for third.
Percentage of Advancing out of Group Stage (According to ESPN’s SPI Index):
Schalke 04: 64%
Sporting Lisbon: 30.1%
NK Maribor: 14.9%
Most Important Game: NK Maribor vs Sporting, Matchday 1 September 17th
The two minnows of the group battle against each other on the opening matchday. While the big fish of the groups battle both teams should use this opportunity to get some valuable points. Playing in Slovenia may be difficult for the Portuguese side. Maribor needs a good start in this group for any chance of advancement. There is no better place to start than at home.
Teams to Move On: Chelsea and Schalke 04
Team to Move On to Europa: NK Maribor