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John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin
Aug 28, 2014

Benfica and Zenit start as slight favourites in Group C

Benfica profited from third-party ownership in 2013-14, winning three trophies and making money.
Benfica won the Portuguese treble and reached the Europa League final last season.

The Champions League draw has been finalised. Here's a preview for Group C:

Predicted finish

1. Benfica
2. Zenit St Petersburg
3. Bayer Leverkusen
4. Monaco

Benfica (Soccer Power Index (SPI) chance to advance: 66.9 percent)

The vagaries of the UEFA coefficient system means that Benfica are a top seed, despite exiting in the groups in the last two seasons. Two consecutive losing Europa League finals took them into Pot 1, though they are defending Portuguese champions. In Nicolas Gaitan and Enzo Perez, they possess talent coveted by the continent's richer concerns and should have too much know-how for the rest.

Zenit St Petersburg (SPI: 33 percent) 

Andre Villas-Boas helms a club still licking its wounds after blowing the Russian league title just prior to last season's conclusion. The former Chelsea and Tottenham boss has much to prove at this high level but can call on the talents of Hulk and Axel Witsel. A strong home record may be needed to get through to the knockout stages.

Bayer Leverkusen (SPI: 64 percent)

Last season's competition, when they were the opponents that David Moyes' Manchester United looked most comfortable playing against, was utterly disastrous for Bayer. Under the new management of Roger Schmidt, they hope for improvement and have bought fresh talent in Hakan Calhanoglu, Josip Drmic and Kyriakos Papadopoulos. 

Monaco (SPI: 36.2 percent)

Last year's big spenders have become this year's big sellers. Shorn of James Rodriguez, and with Radamel Falcao perhaps next to go, a first season back in this competition since 2004-05 may be troubled. The 2004 Champions League finalists have started the French season disastrously, with one win in three games, under the new management of Leonardo Jardim.

John Brewin

Based in London, from where he covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. He reported from the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and was formerly a senior editor of ESPNsoccernet.

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