After falling at the final hurdle in 2012/13, Bundesliga leaders Dortmund embark on this season’s European journey with a certain degree of expectation attached to their fortunes. Having been drawn in a group that also includes Arsenal FC and Olympique de Marseille, however, an uninterrupted route to the knockout rounds is by no means a guarantee for Jürgen Klopp’s men.
Indeed, this may well be the most even group in the competition. Champions League veterans Arsenal were the only side to beat current defending champions FC Bayern München in 2012/13, while Marseille twice beat Dortmund in the group stages in the previous season.
Napoli have also become one of the most dynamic teams in European football in recent years, reaching the last 16 in 2011/12. “There really is no favourite in this group,” says sporting director Michael Zorc. “All four teams are on a par with one another.”
Under new coach Rafael Benitez, a winner of the Champions League with Liverpool FC in 2005, the Partenopei currently top the Italian Serie A with three wins from three. And similarly to BVB, who lost Mario Götze this summer, they have also reshaped their squad to excellent effect following the departure of prized asset Edinson Cavani to Paris St-Germain FC.
“The most important thing for us is to defend well, since they have outstanding quality in their team,” said Klopp in view of the Napoli's threat. "They play very dynamic football and have strengthened their squad tremendously. It's a really tough group, and we're just happy to be involved."
One player in particular who is relishing the game is striker Robert Lewandowski, and it’s easy to understand why. The 25-year-old set Europe alight with a competition-best eleven goals for BVB last season, including a memorable four-goal haul in the semi-final first leg against Real Madrid.
“Only playing once a week isn’t enough for me; I want to be playing every three days. For me, this is when the season really starts,” said the Poland international.
Napoli: Reina - Maggio, Cannavaro, Albiol, Zuniga - Behrami, Inler - Callejon, Hamsik, Insigne - Higuain
Dortmund: Weidenfeller - Großkreutz, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer - Bender, Sahin - Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Reus - Lewandowski