Benfica and Porto potential groups in the Champions League: Full pots and best and worst case scenarios
Benfica and Porto have both confirmed their place in this year's edition of the Champions League, with the latter qualifying automatically after their title-winning season last campaign, while Benfica had to go through two rounds of qualification, seeing off both Fenerbahce and PAOK. But now they are there, who could they face in the group stage?
Both Benfica and Porto are also placed in pot 2 and can face none of the other sides also in that pot, which includes some European heavyweights such as Borussia Dortmund, Manchester United, Roma and Napoli, in addition to Paulo Fonseca's Shakhtar Donetsk and English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.
Both of Portugal's representatives will instead get one side from each of the other three pots; pot one - containing the league winners of the top six leagues in European football and the Champions League and Europa League holder - pot 3, and pot 4 - which contains the supposed weakest sides in this year's competition.
The full list of clubs in each of the other pots is shown below:
POT 1: Real Madrid (Spain), Atletico Madrid (Spain), Barcelona (Spain), Bayern Munich (Germany), Manchester City (England), Juventus (Italy), Paris Saint Germain (France), Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia)
POT 2: Includes both Benfica and Porto
POT 3: Liverpool (England), Schalke (Germany), Lyon (France), Monaco (France), Ajax (Netherlands), CSKA Moscow (Russia), PSV (Netherlands)
POT 4: Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic), Club Brugge (Belgium), Galatasaray (Turkey), Young Boys (Switzerland), Inter Milan (Italy), Hoffenheim (Germany), Red Star Belgrade (Serbia), AEK Athens (Greece).
Best case scenario?
With regards to pot 1, there is no doubt that one side clearly stands out as the far more favourable option, with Lokomotiv Moscow both historically and statistically the weakest side of all eight clubs and the opponent everyone will hoping to be drawn against. Indeed, with a club coefficient of just 22.500, Lokomotiv would typically be located in the lowest pot - pot 4 - having the sixth worst coefficient of all the sides competing in this year's edition of the contest. However, because they won the Russian league, they have earned an automatic spot in the highest pot, and are grouped together with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus.
So in terms of best case scenario, Lokomotiv Moscow is the side both Benfica and Porto will be hoping for from pot 1, with all the other opponents being incredibly strong both financially and competitively.
Pot 3, however, also contains several big clubs in European football that would provide stern opposition. Last season's Champions League finalists Liverpool, for example, who only dropped into pot 3 after Benfica confirmed their qualification to the Champions League proper, will no doubt prove incredibly difficult to play against, with an attacking force to rival the very greatest sides in the world.
Leonardo Jardim's Monaco, who reached the semi-finals two seasons ago, could also provide a real challenge for any opposition, while Valencia - boasting Goncalo Guedes up front - looked very impressive in La Liga last campaign, finishing 4th in the process.
There is, really, no clear weaker side present in pot 3 and, while there are no particular heavyweights in European football barring, perhaps, Liverpool, facing any of the eight would surely prove an unenviable tasks. However, having in recent years seen the Dutch league reduce in quality over the last couple of decades, with the Eredivisie dropping down the UEFA Coefficient ranking in recent years and Dutch clubs rarely making the latter stages of the Champions League - either of Ajax or PSV should prove beatable, even if not straightforward opponents. Equally, CSKA Moscow would also likely be a better option than most in the pot.
Pot 4, on the other hand, does not look too menacing, with exception to a couple of sides - Inter Milan immediately jumps out as the side to avoid, for their prestige and history, while they also look like they are on the up after a relatively disappointing past few seasons. In terms of best case scenario, being drawn against Greek outfit AEK Athens would surely be preferable, while Red Star Belgrade or Young Boys - who have never competed in the Champions League group stage before - would also be strong alternatives and would make both Benfica and Porto confident of at least not finishing bottom of the group.
Best case scenario: Lokomotiv Moscow, Benfica/Porto, PSV, AEK Athens.
Being drawn with Lokomotiv, PSV and AEK would no doubt be a dream scenario for either Benfica or Porto, and would surely make them favourites to advance not only to the next round, but as group winners too. With none of the opponents in this potential group playing in the biggest leagues in European football - such as Germany, Spain and England - this would be the ideal opportunity for a Portuguese side to advance to the knockout round.
But of course they can't both draw such a perfect group. So, from a Portuguese perspective - as opposed to from a club one - what would be the best pair of groups? In other words, which two separate groups would give both Portuguese sides the most favourable chance of advancing to the knockout stage together? Here is what we believe would be the ideal solution:
Best case scenario Team 1: Lokomotiv Moscow, Benfica/Porto, Ajax, Young Boys
Best case scenario Team 2: Atletico Madrid, Benfica/Porto, PSV, AEK Athens
If Benfica and Porto were to be drawn into these two groups - whichever way round - you would fancy both sides to qualify for the next stage of Europe's elite competition, an ideal prospect from a Portuguese perspective.
Worst case scenario?
Perhaps more likely is a worst case scenario for at least one of Portugal's representatives. Any of the other seven clubs in the highest pot will surely prove formidable challenges to both Benfica and Porto, and finishing ahead of any of them would be a notable triumph, so it is hard to deduce what would be the worst case scenario from pot 1.
In terms of pot 3, last season's runners-up Livepool are surely the toughest test of all, while either of Monaco or Valencia would also be undesirable.
Finally, from pot 4, in addition to Inter Milan, Hoffenheim are probably the side you would most likely want to avoid; making the top 4 in Germany is never an easy task, such is the strength of the competition in the league, so Hoffenheim should be taken very seriously indeed. While Galatasaray are also a side not to underestimate.
Worst case scenario: Barcelona, Benfica/Porto, Liverpool, Inter Milan
It's difficult to say who would be most difficult from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, PSG and Manchester City - take your pick! Any of those six, combined with Liverpool and Inter Milan, would surely make for the ultimate nightmare draw for either of the Portuguese club.
But from a Portuguese perspective, what pair of groups would most likely prevent either of our represntatives from making the next round of the contest?
Worst case scenario Team 1: Real Madrid, Benfica/Porto, Liverpool, Hoffenheim
Worst case scenario Team 2: Manchester City, Benfica/Porto, Valencia, Inter Milan
When is the draw?
The official draw will occur today - the day after Benfica conquered PAOK in Greece - at 17:00 BST.