Group G: the lowdown
UEFA coefficient ranking (end of 2018/19): 19
How they qualified: Russian champions
European Cup best: round of 16 x3 (2012, 2014, 2016)
Last season: #UEL round of 16 (lost 5-2 on aggregate to Villarreal)
In: Douglas Santos (Hamburg), Aleksei Sutormin (Rubin), Malcom (Barcelona)
Out: Aleksandr Anyukov (Krylya Sovetov), Claudio Marchisio (released), Hernani (Parma, loan), Emiliano Rigoni (Zenit to Sampdoria, loan)
Coach: Sergei Semak
A stalwart with CSKA Moskva for much of his career, Semak also played for the likes of Paris, Rubin and Zenit while he was a key component of the Russia side that reached the semi-finals of UEFA EURO 2008. Started his coaching career as assistant, and later caretaker, at Zenit and returned to the club after a spell at Ufa to lead them to last season’s title.
Key player: Malcom
Zenit splashed out a reported €40m to bring the 20-year-old Brazilian’s short spell at Barcelona to an end and they will be hoping he can recapture the form that made him such a hot property at Bordeaux. Capable of playing as an attacking midfielder or forward, Malcom will be expected to provide the ammunition for Sardar Azmoun and Artem Dzyuba.
One to watch: Sebastián Driussi
The 23-year-old Argentinian, like Malcom, can play in an advanced midfield role or further forward and has improved his goal return in both seasons at the club since his transfer from River Plate. Finished last season with seven goals in Zenit’s final seven league matches.
UEFA coefficient ranking (end of 2018/19): 21
How they qualified: Portuguese champions
European Cup best: winners x2 (1961, 1962)
Last season: Group stage (third place), #UEL quarter-finals
Group stage last season: third in Group E – W2 D1 L3 F6 A11 (v Bayern, Ajax, AEK Athens)
In: Caio Lucas (al-Ain), Raúl de Tomás (Real Madrid), Carlos Vinícius (Napoli)
Out: Raúl Jiménez (Wolves), João Félix (Atlético), Eduardo Salvio (Boca Juniors)
Coach: Bruno Lage
Having risen through the Benfica coaching ranks with the youth and B teams, Lage took the reins in January and won 23 of his first 29 matches in all competitions to lead the Eagles to the Portuguese title. His charges also equalled the club’s league scoring record of 103 goals in that campaign.
Key player: Haris Seferović
Five Benfica players scored 15 goals or more last season but the Swiss striker topped the pile with 27 and ended the campaign as the Liga’s top scorer. A UEFA Nations League hat-trick against Belgium caught the eye too, with the forward as adept at holding up play and bringing others into the game as he is at scoring himself.
One to watch: Gedson Fernandes
On the radar since he was named in the team of the tournament at the 2016 Under-17 EURO, which Portugal won, the midfielder scooped the title at Benfica in 2018/19. He featured in 46 games in all competitions in that campaign, including 16 in Europe as his stock continued to rise.
UEFA coefficient ranking (end of 2018/19): 27
How they qualified: third in French Ligue 1
European Cup best: semi-finals (2010)
Last season: round of 16 (lost 5-1 on aggregate to Barcelona)
Group stage last season: Group F runners-up – W1 D5 L0 F12 A11 (v Manchester City, Shakhtar, Hoffenheim)
In: Jean Lucas (Flamengo), Thiago Mendes (LOSC), Joachim Andersen (Sampdoria)
Out: Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid), Tanguy Ndombele (Tottenham), Nabil Fekir (Real Betis)
The Brazilian full-back made his name in Europe with Arsenal, Celta and Barcelona before starting his coaching career in assistant roles at Cruzeiro, Inter and the Brazil national team. The two-time UEFA Champions League winner was announced as the replacement for Bruno Génésio this summer – his first position in the top job.
Key player: Moussa Dembélé
The striker has been outstanding in a team brimming with attacking options since joining from Celtic last summer. Racked up 20 goals in that maiden campaign in France and showed his ability to link play as well as create openings for himself. A full international debut for Les Bleus cannot be far away.
One to watch: Houssem Aouar
An elegant midfielder who can play wide or in a deep-lying creative role, the Lyon academy product made his breakthrough in the 2017/18 season. With Tanguy Ndombele and Nabil Fekir among the summer departures, Aouar will be expected to take on greater responsibility and provide service to the likes of Dembélé and Memphis Depay.
UEFA coefficient ranking (end of 2018/19): 69
How they qualified: third in German Bundesliga
European Cup best: group stage (2018)
Last season: #UEL group stage (third place)
In: Hannes Wolf (Salzburg), Christopher Nkunku (Paris), Ademola Lookman (Everton), Patrik Schick (Roma, loan)
Out: Bruma (PSV Eindhoven), Julian Krahl (Köln), Marius Müller (Luzern), Jean-Kévin Augustin (Monaco, loan)
Coach: Julian Nagelsmann
Forced to retire from playing when only 20, he succeeded Huub Stevens as Hoffenheim coach in February 2016 – the youngest coach in Bundesliga history at the age of 28. Took them to a fourth-placed finish in 2016/17 and third a year later. Oversaw Hoffenheim’s debut UEFA Champions League group campaign last season.
Key player: Timo Werner
The lively Germany striker recently signed a new four-year contract at Leipzig, having scored 61 goals in the last three years. Three of those came in the club’s maiden group stage campaign of 2017/18 and he will lead the line again this time around.
One to watch: Ibrahima Konaté
Holding his own in the Bundesliga after two seasons at the centre of the Leipzig defence, 20-year-old Konaté demonstrated his class at the Under-21 EURO with France. Has already made 44 Bundesliga appearances in those two campaigns despite stiff competition for places.
Did you know?
- This is Zenit’s seventh UEFA Champions League campaign, and a first since 2015/16.
- This is Benfica’s tenth successive season in the group stage.
- New Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann was in charge of Hoffenheim last season, his team earning two draws (3-3 h, 2-2 a) against Lyon in the group stage.
- Zenit and Lyon met in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League, with the Russian club winning 3-1 and 2-0.
- Leipzig’s sole previous experience of their Group G opponents was a meeting with Zenit in the 2017/18 UEFA Europa League round of 16 – the German club won 3-2 on aggregate (2-1 h, 1-1 a).