Chelsea poised to ease through favourable Group G
The Champions League draw has been finalised. Here's a preview for Group G:
2. Sporting CP
Chelsea (Soccer Power Index (SPI) chance to advance: 91.0 percent)
A hugely significant summer of transfer business from Jose Mourinho's team, and now an eminently forgivable group. It would be a huge shock if Chelsea did not finish top, with ease.
Sporting CP (SPI: 30.1 percent)
They ousted Porto from second place in the league last season, and some of their canny business could well see them oust Schalke here. The return of Nani to the club is particularly intriguing, and any recovery in form could see Sporting finally return to the round of 16. It is a stage they have been to only once in the past 30 years.
Champions League group stage
A: Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiakos, Malmo
B: Real Madrid, Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets
C: Benfica, Zenit, Leverkusen, Monaco
D: Arsenal, Dortmund, Galatasaray, Anderlecht
E: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Man City, Roma
F: Barcelona, PSG, Ajax, APOEL
G: Chelsea, Schalke, Sporting, Maribor
H: Porto, Shakhtar, Athletic Bilbao, BATE
Schalke (SPI: 64.0 percent)
A solid team, but still short of the extra quality of some of their German rivals, even Bayer Leverkusen. That could leave them a little short in this group. Schalke may have enough trouble holding onto a top-four spot in the German league this season.
Maribor (SPI: 14.9 percent)
Legia Warsaw proclaimed that "football won" when the Slovenian side eliminated Celtic with a late goal in Glasgow, but it's hard not to see them losing the majority of their games here.
Miguel Delaney is London correspondent for ESPN and also writes for the Irish Examiner, the Independent, Blizzard and assorted others. He is the author of an award-nominated book on the Irish national team called 'Stuttgart to Saipan' (Mentor) and was nominated for Irish sports journalist of the year in 2011.