''Four strong teams, an interesting group.'' Hans-Joachim Watzke seemed happy with the names footballing legend Didier Drogba pulled out of the draw - Zenit. St. Petersburg, Lazio and Club Bruges will be BVB's opponents in the group stage of the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League, which gets underway on 20 October.
Interesting names, achievable tasks. ''It's our clear goal to make it through the group phase,'' said sporting director Michael Zorc. Given their place in pot 2, the Thursday evening draw in Geneva could have gone a lot worse for last season's Bundesliga runners-up, who avoided the genuine heavyweights in pot 1 such as Liverpool, Real, Juve and PSG. The 32 teams competing in this year's UEFA Champions League have a total of 47 European trophies to their name. However, only four of them have been won by teams in Group F. Zenit St. Petersburg lifted the UEFA Cup in 2008, Lazio claimed the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1999 - and Borussia of course won the Cup Winners' Cup in 1966 and the Champions League in 1997.
But the Black & Yellows will have to have their wits about them. Russia's most successful club of recent times (winning five league titles between 2010 and 2020) have reached the knock-out every other time they've participated in Europe's elite club competition. The club from Europe's fourth largest city (with a population of 5.4 million) finished third in their group behind Lyon and Leipzig last season, so according to the historical sequence, they're due a place in the round of 16 this time round. The Russians' previous encounter with BVB came in that very round in the 2013/14 season. In the first leg in St. Petersburg, Borussia stormed to an early 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Henrik Mkhitaryan (4) and Marco Reus (5) before a Lewandowski brace secured a 4-2 away win. Back in Dortmund for the second leg, Sebastian Kehl scored his first and only European goal for the Black & Yellows. Despite losing the match 2-1, Borussia progressed into the quarter-finals.
BVB's previous match-up with Lazio in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup over 25 years was considerably more exciting. The Dortmund defence found themselves under severe pressure all game long in the first leg in Rome, ultimately going down 1-0 due to a Steffen Freund own goal. In the second leg, Stéphane Chapuisat's 11th minute goals tied things up early on. The tie looked set for extra time before Kalle Riedle popped up in the 90th minute to make it 2-0 and secure passage to the next round.
''We're looking forward to meeting Ciro Immobile in a Lazio jersey,'' said Michael Zorc - who played in the last encounter with the Rome-based club - about the three-time Serie A top scorer, who played for BVB in the 2013/14 season (33 matches, ten goals). ''The reunion with Ciro Immobile gives the Lazio draw a special flavour,'' added Hans-Joachim Watzke. Lazio, full name Società Sportiva Lazio, have won the Italian Cup seven times and Serie A twice. This is the seventh time the Italians have made it to the Champions League, with their last participation dating back to 2007. The only time the Biancocelesti (the white & sky-blues) have made it to the knock-out stage was in their Champions League debut in 1999/2000, when they reached the quarter-finals. Last season, they failed to make it out of their Europa League group, finishing behind CFR Cluj and Celtic.
The team many would consider the underdogs in Group F happen to be the side that BVB have had the most memorable matches with in the past. FC Bruges have been a thorn in the side of the Black & Yellows on more than one occasion. And even when the results have been in Dortmund's favour, such as in Lucien Favre's debut season in 2018, it's never been an easy match-up. Borussia won 1-0 away in Belgium thanks to a strange goal from Christian Pulisic, who unknowingly deflected the ball into the back of the net after a defender had attempted to clear. The second fixture ended goalless despite BVB enjoying 70% possession.
Bruges claimed the Belgian league title last season, their 16th in club history. In a sense, the club from the small city of 118,000 in west Flanders arguably helped cause and then came to symbolise Borussia Dortmund's 2004 financial crisis. On the last matchday of the 2002/03 Bundesliga season, Borussia were held to a 1-1 draw at home to Energie Cottbus - one of those luckless days when everything seems to conspire against you - and thus blew their chance at finishing second and achieving direct qualification for the Champions League. Instead, the Black & Yellows would have to negotiate a knock-out tie with FC Bruges. In the first leg, Roman Weidenfeller kept his side in the tie with some unbelievable saves as Borussia lost 2-1. In a dramatic second leg, Marcio Amoroso and Ewerthon scored late goals to force extra-time and ultimately penalties. Defender André Bergdölmo and the usually dependable Amoroso missed their spotkicks as Bruges progressed to Europe's elite competition.
UEFA have announced that the fixture list will be published on Friday - ''by midnight at the latest.'' There will be no advance sales of tickets - at least to begin with - for the three homes matches in the group stage. As instructed by UEFA, all matches will take place behind closed doors until further notice.