PSG and Porto are the two sides expected to progress to the next phase from Group A of the Champions League but Dynamo Kyiv and Dinamo Zagreb will put up a significant fight to get through to the second round.
Ligue 1 giants PSG are heavy favourites to finish top of the group due to the massive investment in their first team since the takeover from Qatari Investment Authority. With stars such as Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore, Gregory van der Wiel and Alex in their ranks, the expectations are high for Les Parisiens and their coach Carlo Ancelotti as anything but the second-round at least is unacceptable.
But PSG are very inexperienced in the Champions League, as this season is their first in the competition for eight years. Ancelotti’s side haven’t got their domestic campaign off to the best of starts as they drew their first three matches but have improved having picked up victories over Lille and Toulouse in their most recent fixtures, meaning they approach their opening game against Dynamo Kiev high in confidence.
Porto are the side most likely to challenge PSG for top spot and will be very disappointed if they fail to progress to the knockout stages.
The Portuguese giants are currently joint top of their domestic league but have lost key players Hulk and Alvaro Pereira in the previous transfer window, but still boast the likes of João Moutinho, Miguel Lopes, Silvestre Varela and Steven Defour in their first-team.
Coach Vítor Pereira, Andre Villas-Boas’s former assistant, is only 44-years-old and enjoyed a spectacular first season in charge of Porto on the domestic front. The Dragoes won the league and cup double, but he will be hoping to improve on last season’s European performance as his side crashed out of the group stages of the Champions League and then were eliminated from the round of 32 of the Europa League.
Dynamo Kiev defeated Eredivisie giants Feyenoord and Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach to reach the group stages of the continent’s most prestige club competition. The Ukraine Premier League runners-up were a mainstay in the Champions League until recently after they finished last at this stage in 2009-10 behind Barcelona, Rubin Kazan and eventual winners Inter.
In Yuri Semen, currently in his second spell as Dynamo coach, the Ukrainians have one of the most successful Russian coaches of recent times. Kyiv also have some exceptional talents in their squad with the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko, Maxym Koval, Andriy Bogdanov, Niko Kranjcar and Miguel Veloso all plying their trade for the Ukrainian giants.
Dinamo Zagreb are considered the weaker side of the group but will be looking to improve on last season’s miserable Champions League campaign by challenging for third place this time around. The Croatians are another side to have enjoyed great success last term as they won the Croatian league (for the seventh consecutive time) and cup double and are still unbeaten after 33 games under Ante Cacic since he took over in December, a spell which included an 11 game winning streak.
Zagreb finished bottom of Group D last season with zero points as they succumbed to heavy defeats to each of Ajax, Lyon and Real Madrid, conceding a massive 22 goals and scoring just three in their six matches.