BARCELONA, Spain — Andre Villas-Boas and Nuno Espirito Santo both experienced victory at the highest level under former boss Jose Mourinho. Now the Portuguese managers of Zenit St. Petersburg and Valencia will face off as their teams start their Champions League campaigns on Wednesday.
Zenit's Villas-Boas was an assistant to Mourinho when the current Cheslea manager guided FC Porto to the Champions League title in 2004.
As a coach in his own right, Villas-Boas has since had success at Porto, failed at Chelsea and lived through some highs and lows in Russia.
Espirito Santo was a reserve goalkeeper for that great Porto side in '04. He will be making his debut as a coach in the Champions League after guiding Valencia to a fourth-place finish in Spain last season and a tough playoff win over Monaco to reach the group phase.
Belgian club Gent will make its debut in the competition when it hosts yon in the other group match.
Here are some things to know about Wednesday's Group H games:
RETURN TO GLORY
Valencia's fans long for the time when it reached consecutive Champions League finals before Rafa Benitez led the club to Spanish league and UEFA League titles more than a decade ago.
And after two years of failing to reach the Champions League, Singapore tycoon Peter Lim bought the club and charged Espirito Santo with the task of taking Valencia back to Europe's biggest stage.
Now there, the team has had a fortunate draw and should be favored to be one of the two teams to advance from the group.
"We believe that once again we can be one of the important teams in Europe" Valencia forward Rodrigo Moreno said.
Villas-Boas won the Russian Premier League title less than four months ago, but already things have turned sour.
Villas-Boas was given a six-game ban in the domestic competition earlier this month for striking a match official in apparent frustration during a 3-1 loss to newly promoted Krylya Sovetov Samara.
He has since vowed to depart at the end of this season, but there's speculation he may not last that long.
Zenit's troubles in Russia mean European competition could be a welcome relief for Villas-Boas.
Zenit's first game is perhaps its toughest, away to Valencia. While Zenit has no injury worries, the club has lost all seven prior trips to Spain.
When it visits Gent, Lyon will be hoping star striker Alexandre Lacazette finally lives up to his lucrative new contract.
The 24-year-old Frenchman was voted the French league's best player last season, scoring 27 league goals as Lyon finished second in the league to qualify automatically for the Champions League.
But he has failed to score so far, and has even looked sluggish in recent games.
Lyon desperately needs him to find his scoring touch because Nabil Fekir, Lyon's other star forward, faces up to six months on the sidelines after rupturing his right knee ligaments.
Lacazette is without a goal in his past nine games for club and country.
AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire contributed to this report from Paris.