The UEFA Champions League group stage draw pitted Borussia Dortmund against Atletico Madrid, AS Monaco and Club Brugge in Group A.
It will prove a stern test for Lucien Favre’s men, with last year’s UEFA Europa League winners Atletico and Ligue 1 runners-up Monaco obvious threats to their progression beyond the group stage.
With the first group fixture to be played on 18 September, we at bundesliga.com have put together a bit of essential reading ahead of Dortmund’s pursuit of Champions League glory with a rundown of their Group A rivals.
Taking on Atletico is a good omen for Dortmund with their four previous meetings coming during successful European campaigns. The sides last met in 1996, where both teams exchanged away victories in Group B before Dortmund went on to lift the Champions League trophy for the first - and only - time in their history.
The only other two matches came in 1965-66 when a 1-1 draw in Germany was followed by a 1-0 win for Dortmund that sent them to the semi-finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Respective victories over English clubs West Ham and Liverpool in the semi-final and final delivered Dortmund’s only other European success.
Might as well give them the trophy now…
Key player – Antoine Griezmann
The 2017/18 Europa League player of the season will pose an enormous threat to a Dortmund defence that last season shipped 47 goals in 34 Bundesliga games. An overhaul of personnel at the Signal Iduna Park should ensure those numbers aren’t repeated under Favre this year but Griezmann and his partners in crime will certainly test that theory.
Key to the games
Win the midfield, win the game?
These two teams boast some of the finest midfielders in Europe and Koke-Saul vs Delaney-Witsel will be an intriguing battle. The new physicality in the centre of Dortmund’s system will throw up a fascinating test of the Atleti pair’s immense industry. Whoever comes out on top and can release their team’s forward players may well prove the difference.
A European trophy is yet to feature in the Stade Louis II’s halls, something Leonardo Jardim will hope he can address this season. It will be no easy feat for a team blown out of the water domestically by Paris Saint-Germain last year, but reinforcements in the shape of Benjamin Henrichs from Bayer Leverkusen, Aleksander Golovin from CSKA Moscow and Willem Geubbels from Olympique Lyon should improve this team.
These two have met only twice before over two legs of the 2016/17 Champions League quarter-finals. On that occasion, Monaco emerged as 6-3 aggregate winners following a Kylian Mbappe inspired 3-2 win in Dortmund and a 3-1 victory in France. It is a result that will still bear pain for the surviving members of that defeat, including captain Marco Reus.
Key player – Stevan Jovetic
Alongside Radamel Falcao, Jovetic provides both a goal-scoring and creative threat at Monaco’s tip and his breakout performance against Bayern Munich back in the 2009/10 Champions League should serve as a warning to Dortmund of Jovetic’s record against German clubs. Two goals and an assist over two legs were Jovetic’s return as Fiorentina so nearly sparked Bayern’s exit.
Key to the games
It will prove difficult but in Favre they do have a man with an intimate knowledge of Monaco and a history in beating them. Favre oversaw two wins, a draw and one defeat against Monaco as OGC Nice manager. Those wins were emphatic, too, with both coming in the shape of 4-0 victories at home. Favre has freely switched things up against Monaco, setting his side up playing 3-5-2, 5-4-1, 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 across those four league matches with his only defeat coming in the shape of his 5-4-1 variant which is unlikely to be rolled out too many times at Dortmund.
Having clinched last season’s Jupiler Pro League title, Brugge return to the Champions League group stage with an enormous task ahead of them. Comfortably the outsiders in the group, Brugge will need to pull off a remarkable run if they are to go one better than their 1978 journey to the European Cup final and become Belgium’s first champions of Europe.
Dortmund have met Brugge twice before in the Champions League, in the 2003/04 third qualifying round of the tournament when the Belgians advanced to the group stage at German expense. Having exchanged 2-1 home victories, Brugge would go on to win 4-3 on penalties after André Bergdölmo and Amoroso missed from the spot for Dortmund.
Key player – Jelle Vossen
Brugge’s talisman, Vossen is their go-to-guy for goals. Trademarked by a thunderous right-foot and dominant aerial threat, Vossen is the very essence of a poacher. Dortmund will need to stop opportunity falling Vossen’s way as he will – more often than not – convert what does.
Key to the games
Having been knocked out of European competition by Brugge twice before, Dortmund will need to write a new chapter in the history of this Germany-Belgium rivalry. To do so, Reus could prove the difference with his pace, skill and ability in front of goal all each capable of turning any game on its head. Currently one goal behind Robert Lewandowski (17) as the club’s record Champions League scorer, Reus will be hoping to move level or beyond Lewandowski when the two teams meet in the Group A opener in Bruges.