Portugal’s five representatives in European competition this season have found out their fates after Thursday and Friday’s draws in Monaco.
Benfica face a difficult but certainly achievable goal of progressing to the Champions League knock-out stages from their group with RB Leipzig, Lyon, and Zenit St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, in the Europa League Porto, Sporting, Braga, and Vitória all discovered their opponents with some tasty clashes coming up over the next few months.
Benfica were drawn in a tough Champions League group G alongside Lyon, Zenit St. Petersburg, and RP Leipzig. Benfica start at home to RB Leipzig on the 17th September which is a first-time meeting between the two sides. Next is a long trip to St. Petersburg to take on Zenit, a frequent Champions League adversary, and Benfica will be looking to get revenge for Champions League elimination in 2016. Then on the 23rd October they’ll host Anthony Lopes’ Lyon side, the two sides met in the group stages in 2010 with Benfica losing 2-0 in France before winning 4-3 at the Luz when Carlos Martins pulled the strings for Jorge Jesus’ side that night.
So, that fixture list in full:
17th September: BENFICA vs. RP Leipzig
2nd October: Zenit St. Petersburg vs. BENFICA
23rd October: BENFICA vs. Lyon
5th November: Lyon vs. BENFICA
27th November: RB Leipzig vs. BENFICA
10th December: BENFICA vs. Zenit St. Petersburg
Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus make up group D alongside Atlético Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen, and Lokomotiv Moscow; and the Portuguese duo at Manchester City will be happy with their group C that features Atalanta, Dinamo Zagreb, and Shakhtar Donetsk.
Porto have a tricky looking group, but they certainly will be one of the favourites to progress to the knockout stages. Sérgio Conceição’s side have an interesting tie with Feyenoord, the two sides haven’t met since Porto beat the Dutch side back in 1993. Porto also have a trip to Switzerland to face BSC Young Boys, who lost out to Crvena Zvezda in Champions League qualification and drop down to the Europa League, and final team in the group is Rangers – with the Glasgow side beating Porto back in 2005.
19th September: PORTO vs. Young Boys
3rd October: Feyenoord vs. PORTO
24th October: PORTO vs. Rangers
7th November: Rangers vs. PORTO
28th November: Young Boys vs. PORTO
12th December: PORTO vs. Feyenoord
Marcel Keizer’s Sporting make up group D alongside PSV Eindhoven, Rosenborg, and LASK Linz. PSV’s trip to the Alvalade will also be a return for former Sporting winger Bruma (who almost joined Porto in the summer) after his complicated exit from the club back in the summer of 2013. Sporting have never before faced Norway's Rosenborg who now with Nicklas Bendtner leading the line, but they did once eliminate Austria’s LASK Linz from the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup back in the 1969. Sporting should feel confident of progressing even with tricky fixtures against PSV.
19th September: PSV Eindhoven vs. SPORTING
3rd October: SPORTING vs. LASK Linz
24th October: SPORTING vs. Rosenborg
7th November: Rosenborg vs. SPORTING
28th November: SPORTING vs. PSV Eindhoven
12th December: LASK Linz vs. SPORTING
Braga did brilliantly well to eliminate Spartak Moscow to get to the group stages. Ricardo Sá Pinto’s team now face off against the Portuguese enclave in the West Midlands, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Also in the group is Beşiktaş, who knocked Leonardo Jardim’s Braga side out of the Europa League round of 16 back in 2012. Finally, group K is rounded out by Slovan Bratislava who eliminated former Braga manager Abel Ferreira’s PAOK to earn their place in the groups. It will be a tough group for Braga with Wolves very much the favourites to progress so their games in Turkey and Slovakia will be key to success.
19th September: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. BRAGA
3rd October: BRAGA vs. Slovan Bratislava
24th October: Beşiktaş vs. BRAGA
7th November: BRAGA vs. Beşiktaş
28th November: BRAGA vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers
12th December: Slovan Bratislava vs. BRAGA
Finally, Vitória de Guimarães progressed past FCSB and their eccentric president Gigi Becali – although life doesn’t get any easier for Ivo Vieira’s men in group F. Arsenal, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Standard Liege make up their group. Vitória actually eliminated Standard from the UEFA Cup back in 1995 under Vítor Oliveira’s short stint. The games against Eintracht see a familiar foe in Gonçalo Paciência and it’s also an early return to Portugal for Bas Dost. Finally, the games against Arsenal will be very difficult but should see a fantastic atmosphere as always in Guimarães but it will take a monumental effort for them to progress from their group.
19th September: Standard Liege vs. VITÓRIA
2nd October: VITÓRIA vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
24th October: Arsenal vs. VITÓRIA
6th November: VITÓRIA vs. Arsenal
27th November: VITÓRIA vs. Standard Liege
12th December: Eintracht Frankfurt vs. VITÓRIA
by Richard Cole