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2018/19 Champions League Analysis: Group D
Simon Winter
Simon Winter
September 12, 2018
Show Bio

Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.

The teams in UEFA Champions League Group D look among the most evenly matched quartets in the competition. With the gap in quality between the four clubs negligible at best, the potential for drama and unpredictability is high.

Portuguese side FC Porto are the early front-runners to top the group in the bookmakers, though the enigmatic Primeira Liga champions are far from a sure bet.

Germany’s Schalke 04, Turkey’s Galatasaray and Russia’s Lokomotiv Moscow are capricious enough to crank up the volatility levels of Group D considerably.

All four combatants are capable of taking points off each other, and with numerous punches and counter punches expected to fly, Group D is definitely one for neutrals to keep an eye on.

Read More: Champions League 2018/19 Outright Betting Tips and Predictions – Group Stage Predictions

Champions League Group D


18th September 2018

Galatasaray vs Schalke 04 (Türk Telekom Stadium, Istanbul)

Schalke 04 vs Porto Arena (AufSchalke, Gelsenkirchen)

3rd October 2018

Lokomotiv Moscow vs Schalke 04 (RZD Arena, Moscow)

Porto vs Galatasaray (Estádio do Dragão, Porto)

24th October 2018

Lokomotiv Moscow vs Porto (RZD Arena, Moscow)

Galatasaray vs Schalke 04 (Türk Telekom Stadium, Istanbul)

6th November

Porto vs Lokomotiv Moscow (Estádio do Dragão, Porto)

Schalke 04 vs Galatasaray (AufSchalke, Gelsenkirchen)

28th November

Lokomotiv Moscow vs Galatasaray (RZD Arena, Moscow)

Porto vs Schalke 04 (Estádio do Dragão, Porto)

11th December

Galatasaray vs Porto (Türk Telekom Stadium, Istanbul)

Schalke 04 vs Schalke 04 (AufSchalke, Gelsenkirchen)


Porto predictions and betting tips

How did they qualify?

Porto won the Portuguese Primeira Liga last season for the first time in five years.

Best Champions League season:

Porto have won the European Cup/Champions League twice in their history. They beat Bayern Munich in the 1987 Final and triumphed over Monaco in the 2004 Final.


Porto will be competing in the Group Stage of the Champions League for the 7th straight season, though it will be the first time in five years that they enter the competition as winners of their domestic league.

Last season, Porto finished seven points clear of traditional rivals Benfica to clinch their first Primeira title since 2012/13. Sérgio Conceição, who had two spells at the club as a player, masterminded the title triumph in his first season in the Porto hot seat. The Dragões lost just two games and conceded just eighteen times en-route to glory.

Understandably then, there is a huge swell of positivity at Porto. The Portuguese giants have largely retained the squad that won the league so impressively last term, and while a couple of their stars flew the nest, the talent drain from Porto has gradually reduced from a deluge to a trickle in recent years.

Porto turned a profit again this summer, doing so for the fifteenth time in sixteen years, though Sérgio Conceição’s squad doesn’t look any weaker than it did twelve months ago.

Conceição guided his team through the Group Stages of the Champions League last season in a section that included Monaco, RB Leipzig and Besiktas. Porto’s results were mixed however and they only kept one clean sheet in their six Group outings. Their creaky defence was exposed horribly in the Last 16 by Liverpool, and Porto’s crushing 0-5 first leg defeat at the Estádio do Dragão is still painfully recent.


Porto have pace and dynamism in attack with a well-balanced midfield playing a supporting role. Sérgio Conceição’s side are also a threat from set pieces – they hit the net 18 times via that route in Portugal last season. Porto also scored more times from set pieces in last year’s Champions League Group Stage than any other side. They scored 7 times in total from set plays.


Although their defensive record in Portugal last season was sensational, Porto found it much more difficult to repel the attacks of Champions League opponents. Liverpool tore them asunder in the Last 16 first leg, and Porto had kept just 1 clean sheet in the Group Stage before that.

Key Players:

Vincent Aboubakar

Explosive Cameroonian striker Vincent Aboubakar is the focal point of the Porto attack. The 26-year old scored 5 times in the Champions League Group Stage last season and 26 times in all competitions during his 3rd full season at the club. Aboubakar has been repeatedly linked with moves to the Premier League and La Liga.

Hector Herrera

Mexican international midfielder Hector Herrera adds bite and aggression to Porto’s midfield. Herrera is remarkably consistent and the 28-year old rarely has a bad game. While his reputation has been forged as an enforcer, Herrera is also a fine footballer with a varied and accurate passing range.


  • Porto have only kept 2 clean sheets in their last 10 Champions League fixtures.
  • Porto have lost just 2 of their last 25 matches at home in all competitions.
  • Porto have only won 1 of their last 6 Champions League away games.

Fixture Analysis

Porto are considerably stronger than most of the other teams in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. Their position as one of the division’s strongest teams means that their domestic fixtures either side of their Champions League commitments shouldn’t cause them too many problems in terms of fatigue.

There are a couple of games that stick out however – between their Match Day 2 date with Galatasaray and their Match Day 3 clash at Lokomotiv Moscow, Porto must come through a heated O Clássico battle with Benfica.

Similarly, between their Match Day 4 reunion with Lokomotiv Moscow and their Match Day 5 encounter with Schalke 04, Porto face Braga who finished 4th in the Primeira Liga last season. All three of those fixtures are scheduled to be played at the Estádio do Dragão however.

Read More: Champions League 2018/19 Outright Betting Tips and Predictions – Top Goalscorer

Schalke 04

Schalke 04 vs FC Cologne

How did they qualify?

Schalke 04 finished 2nd in the Bundesliga last season, earning them a place in the Champions League Group Stage.

Best Champions League season:

Schalke 04 reached the Semi Finals of the 2010/11 Champions League. They were eventually beaten 6-1 by Manchester United over two legs.


Schalke 04 finished as runners up to runaway Bundesliga winners Bayern Munich last season, securing Champions League football with their highest league finish since 2010/11.

Die Königsblauen finished a comfortable eight points ahead of 3rd placed Hoffenheim, though they never came close to laying a glove on champions Bayern Munich. However, some of the positivity at the Veltins-Arena has been eroded after a frustrating summer transfer window.

Key midfield duo Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka were lost on free transfers to Crystal Palace and Bayern Munich respectively, while Schalke received an offer they couldn’t refuse for promising centre half Thilo Kehrer.

Manager Domenico Tedesco has tried to patch the holes with signings of Sebastian Rudy and Suat Serdar, though Schalke’s early season performances suggest that those midfielders are downgrades on the players they have replaced.

More will be expected this season from exciting youngsters Amine Harit and Breel Embolo in attack and they are joined up front by German striker Mark Uth, who arrived on a free transfer from Hoffenheim in the summer.

Uth scored seventeen times last season and Domenico Tedesco will hope that he can bring his goal scoring touch to a team who finished as the lowest scorers in the Bundesliga top six in 2017/18.


Schalke 04 have a number of players who can create chances and opportunities with moments of individual skill.  Die Königsblauen also carry a significant threat from set pieces. Only Bayern Munich and Hannover scored more goals from set pieces in the Bundesliga last season.


Goal scoring has been a recurring problem for Schalke over the last 12 months or so. They averaged less shots per game than 10 of the other teams in the Bundesliga last season, despite finishing 2nd. Only 6 clubs scored fewer goals from open play than Schalke in the league too.

Key Players:


Vastly experienced centre half Naldo was an ever present for Schalke in the Bundesliga last season, and the 35-year old is a calming influence at the back for Die Königsblauen. Naldo has been at Schalke since 2016, joining the club after his contract expired at Wolfsburg. Naldo is a beast in the air and tends to dominate aerially in both penalty areas.

Daniel Caligiuri

Attacking wing back Daniel Caligiuri is Schalke’s is one of the team’s main creative outlets and most consistent chance creator. The 30-year old racked up 10 assists in the Bundesliga last season, finishing joint 4th in the overall assist stats in the division for 2017/18.


  • Schalke 04 have only lost 4 of their last 18 Champions League away matches.
  • Schalke 04 have only won 2 of their last 7 Champions League home games.
  • Schalke 04 have only lost 4 of their last 31 home fixtures in all competitions.

Fixture Analysis

Schalke’s domestic calendar looks like it could cause a problem or two in the club’s chase for Champions League Knock Out Round qualification.

After Schalke’s opening Group D match against Porto, they are straight into a huge Bundesliga clash with Bayern Munich.

Schalke follow their trip to Turkey to face Galatasaray with another away match at RB Leipzig. They take on Hoffenheim away from home directly after traveling to Portugal to take on Porto on Match Day 5.

Before their potentially crucial last Group D match at home to Lokomotiv Moscow, they face off against Borussia Dortmund in the Revierderby.

Their schedule sees Schalke play at home in the Bundesliga before 5 of their Group D fixtures, though they play away from home after 4 of them.

Read More: Champions League 2018/19 Outright Betting Tips and Predictions – Winners Prediction


How did they qualify?

Galatasaray won the 2017/18 Turkish Super Lig, beating Fenerbache to the title by 3 points.

Best Champions League season:

Galatasaray reached the Semi Final of the 1988/89 European Cup, where they lost to Steaua Bucharest. They also made to the Quarter Finals of the old-format competition in 1962–63 and 1969–70.

In the re-worked Champions League version of the competition, Galatasaray’s best runs were to the Quarter Finals in 2000–01 and 2012–13. Real Madrid knocked Galatasaray out on both occasions.


After winning their first Turkish Super Lig title in four seasons, Galatasaray are ready to write the latest chapter in their long and colourful history of competing in the Champions League.

The Turkish giants enter their 25th campaign in the competition under its various guises after they first dipped their toes into continental waters back in the early 1950s. Galatasaray returned bloodied and bruised from their most recent forays into the Champions League however.

Galatasaray last made the Group Stages of the competition in 2015/16, where they won just once on their way to an early elimination. The season before that, they didn’t win any of their Group matches on their way to crashing out at the first time of asking.

The Cimbom will hope to avoid similar embarrassment this season, though they will have to take on the rest of Europe with last season’s top scorer Bafetimbi Gomis. The French striker scored thirty-two times in thirty-eight appearances for Galatasaray before signing for Al-Hilal over the summer.

With financial constraints a factor, Manager Fatih Terim wasn’t able to strengthen as much as he would have liked during the transfer window, though the level of opponents Galatasaray face in Group D means that qualification certainly isn’t beyond them.


The atmosphere created by their supporters at the Türk Telekom Stadium in Istanbul can be incredibly hostile and intimidating. With the backing of home crowd, Galatasaray can often play above themselves. The Cimbom have beaten both Real Madrid and Juventus at that venue in the last five years.


With Bafetimbi Gomis gone and no like for like replacement brought in, goals might prove hard to come by for Galatasaray in Group D. Gomis scored 32 times last season and the team’s next highest scorer was midfielder Garry Rodrigues who registered 9 goals in total. His team mates will have to contribute much more in the final third in 2018/19.

Key Players:

Eren Derdiyok

Swiss frontman Eren Derdiyok hasn’t exactly blown people away with his performances since moving to Galatasaray from Kasımpaşa two years ago, but with Bafetimbi Gomis gone, the responsibility for leading the line falls squarely on Derdiyok’s shoulders. The 30-year old hit 3 goals in his first 4 games this season, which suggests he is up to the task.

Younes Belhanda

Moroccan midfielder Younes Belhanda claimed 8 assists in the Turkish Super Liga last season – more than any of his club teammates. Belhanda’s ability to thread a pass from deep is crucial to the way Galatasaray play. Incidentally, the 28-year old had a brief spell on loan at Schalke 04 in 2016.


  • Galatasaray have won 17 of their last 18 competitive home matches.
  • Galatasaray have only won 1 of their last 14 Champions League fixtures.
  • Galatasaray drew 2 and lost 9 of their last 11 Champions League away games.

Fixture Analysis

Galatasaray face each of the other members of last year’s Turkish Super Liga top 4 either before or after mid-week Champions League commitments.

Interestingly, the Cimbom are scheduled to play at home directly before each of their Group D fixtures over the next few months. That might help their preparations somewhat, but their post European match recovery could be equally affected with Galatasaray pencilled in for league away matches immediately after all six Group D games.

Galatasaray play Fenerbache in the The Intercontinental Derby a few days before their Match Day 3 meeting in Germany with Schalke 04. They take on old enemy Besiktas away from home just after they return from playing Lokomotiv Moscow in Russia on Match Day 5.

After their final Group D contest against Porto in Istanbul, Galatasaray travel across the city to take on Istanbul Basaksehir in another tricky looking tie.

Read More: 2018/19 Champions League Analysis: Group C

Lokomotiv Moscow

How did they qualify?

Lokomotiv Moscow won the 2017/18 Russian Premier League and qualified directly for the Champions League Group Stage.

Best Champions League season:

Lokomotiv Moscow made it to the Last 16 of the 2003/04 Champions League. They lost on away goals to Monaco over two legs and were eliminated.


Lokomotiv Moscow are riding the crest of a wave after they won their first Russian top-flight title since 2004 last season in what was only their 3rd championship win in the club’s  history.

2004 was also the year of the club’s best ever run in the Champions League, when Lokotmotiv came through a tough Group containing Dynamo Kyiv, Arsenal and Inter Milan to set up a Last 16 knockout double date with French side Monaco. Lokomotiv lost on away goals to Monaco, who went on to lose the Final of the competition itself to Jose Mourinho’s Porto.

This season, the Railroaders return to the Group Stages of the competition for the first time since their “annus mirabilis” in ’04 and thanks to Manager and former player Yuri Semin, Lokomotiv can enter the tournament with a title winning swagger.

The Russian champions had a canny few months in the transfer window, adding the experienced Benedikt Höwedes, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Éder to a squad that already contained plenty of continental knowhow with the likes of Jefferson Farfan and Vedran Corluka among their number.

Lokomotiv also managed to prise Russian World Cup squad member Fedor Smolov away from Krasnodar, forking out around €8.5m for the centre forward. Smolov was the second highest top scorer in the Russian Premier League last season and the top marksman in the competition the year before that.


Defensively, Lokomotiv Moscow were excellent last season, conceding just 21 goals in 30 games on their way to winning the Russian Premier League title. Yuri Semin likes to play with two screening midfielders patrolling the space just in front of the Lokomotiv rearguard and that makes his team especially tough to break down.


With the focus very much on keeping things water tight in their defensive third, Lokomotiv’s attacking play doesn’t quite have the thrust it should.  The Russian champions only found the net 41 times in their 30 league matches in 2017/18 and they will have to find a way to bump those numbers up this season. New striker Fedor Smolov could hold the key to unlocking the team’s attacking potential.

Key Players:

Jefferson Farfan

Jefferson Farfan showed just how good a player he still is this summer, when he played a starring role for Peru at the 2018 World Cup. Farfan enjoys playing in Russia it seems and the wily veteran enjoyed his best season in years during a productive 2017/18 campaign in Moscow. The 33-year old scored 14 times in total last season and he remains one of the most influential players in the Lokomotiv team.

Aleksey Miranchuk

Often deployed in the same midfield as his identical twin brother, Aleksey Miranchuk vies with his sibling for the tag of family member with the most potential. Aleksey outscored his brother last season, scoring 8 goals to Anton’s 5, though both players have the chance to enhance their glowing reputations further in the Champions League this year.


  • Under 2.5 goals were scored in 10 of Lokomotiv’s last 12 competitive games.
  • Lokomotiv Moscow have won just 1 of their last 13 Champions League matches.
  • Lokomotiv Moscow only scored 5 goals in their last 8 Russian Premier League home fixtures.

Fixture Analysis

Many of Lokomotiv Moscow’s Champions League Group D games are preceded or followed by hugely important Derby games against their rivals from the Russian capital.

Lokomotiv take on Dinamo Moscow a few days before traveling to Turkey to play Galatasaray on Match Day 1. On their return to Russia, Lokomotiv face a massive test away at Zenit.

Following their Match Day 2 home clash with Schalke 04, Lokomotiv cross Moscow to do battle with CSKA and after their Match Day 5 contest at home against Galatasaray, Lokomotiv must negotiate another tough away league match at Spartak Moscow.

In fact, Lokomotiv have away matches in the Russian Premier League directly after 5 of their Champions League Group D matches. They play at home prior to all 6 of their mid-week Group games however.

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