FC Porto has both of the past titles in Group G of the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League. The other three teams have been in the competition before, and a couple of times have come close, but have never managed to hoist the trophy.
How they qualified: Primeira Liga champion, directly into group stage
Best finish: Winner (1987, 2004)
Home stadium: Estádio do Dragão / Porto, Portugal
Coach: Paulo Fonseca
Outlook: FC Porto benefited from José Mourinho’s coming-out party in Europe when it won the UEFA Cup and Champions League in back-to-back years just after the new millennium. Recently, it hasn’t been quite the same on the European stage, but Porto always offers a bit of flair that makes it a tough team to beat.
How they qualified: La Liga third place, directly into group stage
Best finish: Finalist (1974)
Home stadium: Estadio Vicente Calderón / Madrid, Spain
Coach: Diego Simeone
Outlook: Having just gone toe to toe with FC Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup without looking out of place, Atlético could be a force to be reckoned with this year. The team combines a technical ability and tactical awareness of classic Spanish teams with the physical play generally more characteristic of English and German teams.
Zenit St. Petersburg
How they qualified: Russian Premier League second place, defeated Nordsjælland in third qualifying round, Paços de Ferreira in playoff round
Best finish: Round of 16 (2012)
Home stadium: Petrovsky Stadium / St. Petersburg, Russia
Coach: Luciano Spalletti
Outlook: Zenit always finds its way into Europe, earning some results along the way without ever seeming to do much. With Anzhi Makhachkala giving up the ghost as the latest Russian superclub, Zenit has picked off a couple of its best players to reload for an assault on both the Russian Premier League and the Champions League. As always, Zenit will be difficult to beat.
How they qualified: Austrian Bundesliga champion, defeated FH in third qualifying round, Dinamo Zagreb in playoff round
Best finish: Semifinals (1979)
Home stadium: Franz Horr Stadium / Vienna, Austria
Coach: Thomas Parits
Outlook: The weakest team in this group, Vienna survived a late scare in the playoff round to defeat Dinamo Zagreb and make it into the group stage. Don’t expect too much out of the Austrian champion, far removed from its European glory days, but Vienna will provide much the same as all smaller fish in the massive sea of the Champions League: plenty of heart and determination.
This group is Atlético’s ticket to convincing the world that Spain has more than just two good teams. The “other” Madrid team, Diego Simeone’s group could turn some heads with dominant performances in this group. Expect tough challenges from Zenit and FC Porto, who will likely be left to fight over the second-place spot and further European qualification, while Vienna goes along for the ride and takes some lumps along the way.