There is a fine line between wanting to compete with the best teams in the world, and then actually having to play them in order to progress through to the next phase of a competition. It is safe to say Dortmund have not been handed the kindest of draws in the first group proper of the Champions League, though at least it does offer both glamour and the chance for the fans to see their team against relatively unknown opposition. In this article, we look at the teams in more detail, and Dortmund’s record against them.
Two things jump out with this fixture. Firstly, it is Barcelona, arguably the most glamorous side to ply their trade in world football. The other is that remarkably the two sides have never met before. Apart from giving the players and fans the chance to go to the Camp Nou, the two games represent a test of the highest order. They host Valverde’s side at Signal Iduna Park in the opening game of Dortmund’s campaign on the 17th September.
Barcelona’s recent Champions League woes have been well documented, and there is little doubt that the competition will be their number one priority this season. Their start in La Liga has been far from convincing and, even if they are concentrating on European competition, the fans will not let them take their eye off their league position, particularly as the dominance of the big two in Spain does seem to have finally been broken. By the time Dortmund go to the Catalan capital in the last week of November, they will hope to have already secured enough points that they won’t need a win. Whatever happens, the two games will make history.
League football in Italy has only just started, but at the time of writing, Inter are one of three clubs with a hundred percent record. For those who don’t follow football outside the Bundesliga, Oddschecker’s weekly football tips give a good inside view of Europe’s major leagues. These two sides have only met twice before, and that was 45 years ago in the European Cup in 1964. Inter won 2 – 0 in the home fixture, with the teams sharing four goals in the return leg in Germany.
The first of the two games against the Italian giants is away on the 23rd October, and is sandwiched between two games against Mönchengladbach. The home leg comes four days before a trip to Bayern in the league. Inter’s new coach is Antonio Conte who won the Champions League with Juventus in 1995-96, something he has yet to replicate as a manager despite his time at the helm of Juventus and Chelsea.
It is unwise to write off clubs from so-called lesser leagues. Slavia Praha, sitting top of their domestic league, are a side that play with the confidence that that gives them. Unbeaten, averaging two goals a game, and only having conceded two goals in their opening eight fixtures, they should not be taken lightly. That said, if Dortmund are to progress, this is the side they need to be taking four points from as a bare minimal. The Czech outfit will not have faced the calibre of players that Dortmund will bring, and despite his side’s decidedly mixed start to the season Lucien Favre is sure to be on the front foot for both fixtures. Dortmund may not have been given the easiest of routes to the next stage, but one thing in their favour is that they host Praha in the last group game on the 10th December. If they do need all three points, then that is the one game they would have chosen in which to get them. The sides have met twice before in the 1997 Champions League, Dortmund winning 3 – 0 in Prague and 4 – 1 at home.