For the fifth time since 2012 and the seventh time in total, Borussia Dortmund face Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions league. Tottenham Hotspur are also old acquaintances: the clubs went up against each other one and a half years ago in the UEFA Europa League. Pastures new come in the form of APOEL Nicosia: the team will take on opponents from Cyprus for the first time in the club's long European cup competition history.
Real Madrid – the customary opponents. "Even though we have been able to rise to the challenge of Real Madrid a number of times, I have wanted to compete against other opponents on occasion", acknowledged Marcel Schmelzer. Michael Zorc sees a group with "Champions League title holders Real Madrid as clear favourites, while we go toe to toe with Tottenham". Hans-Joachim Watzke: "We had no say in the matter, we accept the challenge! Heroes are born in such groups."
In an case, the Royals will presumably show Dortmund a lot of respect. Spain's reigning league champions and the first team to defend the UEFA Champions League title successfully only failed to defeat two opponents last season in at least one fixture: FC Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. Both matches ended 2-2, and BVB won their group, ahead of Real. In six home games on Strobelallee, Borussia remain undefeated against the largest club in the world (three wins, three draws). "Borussia Dortmund have always played against them as their equals", noted Sky expert Lothar Matthäus.
"Our goal is to get out of the group"
After Real Madrid (pot 1) and Borussia Dortmund (pot 2), Tottenham Hotspur is the third largest club in group H. Last year's runners up in the Premier League have won the English first division twice and the FA cup eight times, and were the first English team to win a European cup competition, the 1963 Cup Winners' Cup. Borussia Dortmund were the first German club to be able to win at the legendary White Hart Lane on 17 March 2016 (2-1). The Black and Yellows had won the first leg of the round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League 3-0 in Dortmund. The stadium on White Hart Lane was torn down at the end of the 2017 season to make way for a new one. Consequently, Tottenham Hotspur are currently playing their home games at Wembley Stadium. "That will evoke memories from 2013" of the Champions League final against the Bavarians (1-2).
APOEL Nicosia is Cyprus' most successful football club, having won 26 league titles and 21 cup titles, though had to battle through three qualification rounds. F91 Dudelange (Luxembourg) were sent packing from the competition thanks to two 1-0 wins. After a 0-1 away defeat against Viitorul Constanta (Romania), the game went to extra time in the return leg, and ended 4-0. APOEL got past Slavia Prague (Czech Republic) in the play-offs 2-0 and 0-0.
"Our goal is to get out of the group, even though the draw has not been as kind to us as we had hoped it might", opined Marcel Schmelzer.