Champions League guide: Group B in focus
Fixtures and UK kick-off times
Atletico Madrid vs Porto (September 7, 8pm)
Club Brugge vs Bayer Leverkusen (September 7, 8pm)
Porto vs Club Brugge (September 13, 8pm)
Bayer Leverkusen vs Atletico Madrid (September 13, 8pm)
Porto vs Bayer Leverkusen (October 4, 8pm)
Club Brugge vs Atletico Madrid (October 4, 8pm)
Atletico Madrid vs Club Brugge (October 12, 5.45pm)
Bayer Leverkusen vs Porto (October 12, 8pm)
Club Brugge vs Porto (October 26, 5.45pm)
Atletico Madrid vs Bayer Leverkusen (October 26, 8pm)
Porto vs Atletico Madrid (November 1, 5.45pm)
Bayer Leverkusen vs Club Brugge (November 1, 5.45pm)
Portuguese champions Porto have benefitted from being in Pot 1 for the draw and will likely fancy their chances of a run into the knockout stages.
Sergio Conceicao’s side were exceptional in the Primeira Liga last season, winning the title with 91 points and just one defeat.
However, they could only finish third in their Champions League group, so they will be hoping for an improvement this time around.
Forward Mehdi Taremi will be the key man for Porto and could net a few goals in a favourable draw.
Like Porto, Atletico Madrid will have been quietly pleased with their opponents
This is perhaps not the strongest iteration of Diego Simeone’s typically stubborn and effective team but they will expect to have too much for Bayer Leverkusen and Club Brugge.
With Alvaro Morata and Antoine Griezmann in attack, as well as Stefan Savic and Jan Oblak keeping things tight at the back, progress to the last 16 should be comfortably attainable.
A run of three successive defeats to start the Bundesliga season suggests Leverkusen may not be the most formidable Champions League opposition.
Their slow start has been a disappointment, particularly after such an excellent 2021-22 season.
Leverkusen finished third — above RB Leipzig and only five points off Borussia Dortmund — and also managed a run to the last 16 of the Europa League.
A return of 80 league goals last term was indicative of their attacking fluidity and striker Patrik Schick, who netted 24 times, will need to be on form in the group stage.
Brugge have never made it beyond the group stages of the Champions League and they will have their work cut out again this year.
Carl Hoefkens’ side will hope to pull off an upset or two, a feat they have proven themselves more than capable of over the years.
The Belgian side held star-studded Paris Saint-Germain to a 1-1 draw last season and managed a 2-2 stalemate with Real Madrid in 2019-20.
Their chances of progress may be slim but they will endeavour to frustrate their opponents as much as possible.
The Iberian clashes between Porto and Atleti in Group B could decide who finishes top.
Of course, Leverkusen and Brugge will hope to have their own say in matters but the teams from Portugal and Spain look significantly stronger and will have two undoubtedly hard-fought encounters.
If Leverkusen are to have any hope of progressing to the next round, their home form will need to be strong.
By replicating the attacking prowess they demonstrated throughout last season and beating Porto at the BayArena, they can throw Group B wide open.
One to watch: Joao Felix
Linked with both Manchester City and Manchester United in recent weeks, there is no doubt that Joao Felix is one of the brightest talents in Europe.
Still only 22, there is a feeling that the Portugal international is on the cusp of making his mark on the Champions League.
If he is at his best, Atleti should have no issues scoring the goals they need to reach the knockout stages.
Hot prospect: Florian Wirtz
A Germany international at just 19 years of age, Florian Wirtz looks like a special talent.
The attacking midfielder has established himself as a regular in the Leverkusen starting XI over the last two seasons, scoring 10 goals in all competitions last term.
Expect to see a lot more of Wirtz in the Champions League over the next decade.
Porto and Atleti are both strong enough to qualify from Group B and their battle for top spot should be keenly contested.
Their head-to-head games are likely to decide the winner and the Spaniards' European pedigree may just give them the edge.
Leverkusen are more than capable of making a push for second place — but only if they rediscover their form of last season.
Anything less will see the Bundesliga outfit looking over their shoulder at Brugge — whose primary goal will be to avoid finishing bottom.