Wednesday in Madrid, two European giants face-off with the winner taking the group and a draw handing it to Dortmund. Real Madrid will be riding high after a last minute equalizer from Sergio Ramos in El Clasico denied Barcelona a chance to gain on La Liga’s leaders. Following that with a victory over Dortmund at the Bernabeu would be a remarkable five day period for Los Blancos. They’re undefeated in 33 matches under Zinedine Zidane and would match the record for a Real side if they avoid defeat against Dortmund. Borussia are in the awkward position of looking up from sixth place in the Bundesliga behind an uncommon collection of squads. Beating Real in Madrid and winning their group would be an important statement. U.S. fans will of course be looking for another Christian Pulisic cameo akin to the one that lead to the equalizer in the first meeting between the sides. Real will be the slight favorites playing at home, but it should be a fantastic finale to the group stage.
The record-holding 11 time winners will defend their current trophy without the usual summertime Galactico business. But, when your squad includes the likes of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema, finally finding consistency is a positive. We have yet to see Zinedine Zidane take a full season at the helm with all the pressure the toughest gig in management provides - how he responds to turbulent times will determine the length of his tenure. The expectations for this squad are the same as every season: win every trophy they compete for. With their aforementioned attacking prowess bolstered by a reliable defense, they could do just that.
Thomas Tuchel had Dortmund firing last season - nearly any other year, their 78 points would have been enough to win the title. But, as always, there’s Bayern. While their captain, Mats Hummels, has exited alongside Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gundogan (to opposite sides of Manchester), Dortmund have brought in capable replacements in Mario Götze and Andre Schürrle while also keeping hold of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. With master tinkerer Thomas Tuchel now settled as he takes on his second season at Signal Iduna Park, there will be few teams confident in overpowering or outsmarting Dortmund.
Averages over a goal a game for Real, having scored 261 in 237 appearances.
The 33 year-old defender has frustrated and annoyed opponents for over 215 matches with Real.
Dortmund somehow managed to keep hold of the electric forward who scored 39 goals last season.
The Greek defender will be even more crucial to Dortmund's season after captain Mats Hummels departure. His last name, Papastathopoulos, is too long to print, so his jersey simply reads, "Sokratis."