For Borussia Dortmund, group A in the UEFA Champions League is a rendezvous with its own history. From a purely sporting perspective, the group is a balanced and ambitious one.
At first glance, Atlético Madrid is the strongest of the three opponents, attested to by their UEFA coefficient of 140 points. Only the reigning champions and Borussia Dortmund's perennial rivals in Europe's premier club competition, Real Madrid, are placed higher in the rankings (162 points) out of all of the 32 participants in the group stage. They have won the Spanish league title a total of ten times (most recently in 2014) and have blossomed to become a team of the highest order under Diego Simeone: in 2018, the side won the UEFA Europa League and then, in an impressive display of their strength, the European Supercup against the incumbent Champions League winners, Real Madrid. "Atlético are a very experienced and well-organised team", said BVB manager Lucien Favre of Spain's domestic runners up, who made it to the Champions League final in 2014 and 2016 (and who lost on both occasions in dramatic circumstances against Real).
Borussia Dortmund have good memories of Atlético Madrid, being, as they were, opponents in both the 1965/66 and 1996/97 seasons en route to cup wins in Europe. On 2 March 1966, BVB were the first German club to defeat Atlético in international competition, when they won 1-0 thanks to a goal scored by Lothar Emmerich (and subsequently went on to claim the European Cup Winner's Cup against Liverpool FC). On 16 October 1996, Stefan Reuter put away the decisive goal to secure a 1-0 victory in the Estadio Vicente Calderon for a Borussia severely weakened by changes due to injury. The denouement of that particular journey was the 3-1 triumph over Juventus Turin in the 1997 Champions League final.
The encounters against AS Monaco, France's domestic runners up, are still fresher in the mind. In the spring of 2017, Borussia Dortmund exited the tournament at the quarter final stage of the UEFA Champions League in very unfortunate circumstances after the attack on the team bus. The seventh and eighth losses against opposition from Ligue 1 (as part of a record that includes seven wins and five draws) that resulted from the two fixtures are unimportant, save for the statistics. Despite the letting of personnel – the emerging global star Kylian Mbappé, among others, has left the club – the French champions of 2017 were able to back up their success from the previous year. The Monégasques finished in second place this season gone behind Paris Saint-Germain. "They ejected Manchester City a couple of seasons ago and only fell short in the semi-final", emphasised Favre.
FC Brügge are Belgium's reigning champions, with the side picking up the title for a fifteenth time. While in no way responsible for Borussia Dortmund's financial crisis of 2004, the club which hails from the town in West Flanders with a mere 118,000 residents is the symbol for what happened. On the final matchday of the 2002/2003 season, Borussia Dortmund threw away second place in the league because of a 1-1 draw in a Bundesliga home match against Energie Cottbus – crossbar, post, misfortune when shooting – losing also, as a result, direct entry into the UEFA Champions League, meaning they would have to play knock-out matches against FC Brügge. Roman Weidenfeller kept the chance of progressing alive with innumerable saves in the first leg (1-2), while Marcio Amoroso and Ewerthon's goals in a dramatic second leg took the fixture to extra time and penalties, in which defender André Bergdölmo and the previously successful Amoroso were to miss.
"It's an exciting and really balanced group overall from a sporting perspective", said Hans-Joachim Watzke: "Our goal is to still be in the competition beyond winter and to go into these matches against strong opponents with plenty of optimism!"
All of these opponents have their allure, their history, and their stories. Michael Zorc was present at all of these earlier encounters, both as a player and in a directorial capacity for sport: "We're really looking forward to the start of the Champions League!"