Atletico Madrid should top Benfica, Galatasaray and FC Astana in Group C
The Champions League draw has been finalised. Here's a preview for Group C, along with the Soccer Power Index (SPI) calculations for each team to advance to the round of 16 as the winner or runner-up.
1. Atletico Madrid
2. SL Benfica
4. FC Astana
Atletico Madrid (SPI to win group: 72.8 percent; to advance: 90.9 percent)
Last season was not quite so successful for Diego Simeone at Atletico Madrid, but the expectation must be that the 2014 finalists can at least make it out of the group stage. As ever at a club that pays its way through transfer acumen, there has been a changing of the guard at the Vicente Calderon with talisman Arda Turan gone, but the addition of Luciano Vietto and Jackson Martinez give them a bright new look. That they retained the mercurial talents of Antoine Griezmann despite heavy interest from Chelsea and Manchester United also bodes well for their chances.
Benfica (SPI: 19.7 percent; 66.8 percent)
It has been a summer of significant change at Benfica. Coach Jorge Jesus defected to Sporting Lisbon (of all clubs) after winning last season's Superliga title, just as it seemed he was set to sign a new contract. Twice-losing finalists in the Europa League in recent years (2013 and 2014), Benfica do not have a particularly distinguished record in this competition; they have not been to the knockouts for 10 seasons. They look a plum draw for Atletico and Galatasaray to prey upon, and though new coach Rui Vitoria may have his work cut out, he has a talented squad to call on.
UCL DRAW: REACTIONS, ODDS AND MORE
- Full Draw: Man City handed toughest group
- Marcotti: Tough draw for City, Barca | SPI predictions
- Group A: Real Madrid, PSG through | Group B: Man Utd top?
- Group C: Atletico top | Group D: Man City test
- Group E: Barca ease | Group F: Bayern, Arsenal
- Group G: Chelsea to cruise | Group H: Zenit upset?
- FC TV: Prem's chances | Rapid reax | Tables | Fixtures
Galatasaray (SPI: 4.7 percent; 24.6 percent)
Turkish football continues to spend big without ever quite achieving the fruits of such expenditure. The presence of Wesley Sneijder shows their ability to pull in top talent, but they will have to do rather better than last season, when Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund both put four goals past them on two occasions each. Cesare Prandelli proved disastrous in barely five months coaching at the club before Hamza Hamzaoglu rescued their season. The draw has been a little kinder this year, but the Europa League and third place does look the most obvious outcome for the Istanbul giants.
FC Astana (SPI: 2.8 percent; 17.7 percent)
In sporting terms, Astana is probably better known for the professional cycling team that bears its name and competes in the big tours. Now the Kazakh capital has arrived in the biggest sporting league of all after a historic qualifying defeat of APOEL. It may well be that a squad dominated by Kazakh nationals find themselves as whipping boys, but the long trip east could be daunting for others. Formed in 2009, Astana will be by far the youngest club of the final 32.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.