Champions League – Borussia Dortmund’s Group A Previewed

Champions League – Borussia Dortmund’s Group A Previewed

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Manuel Veth –

The 2018/19 Champions League group stage kicks off in less than a week. Dominated by Real Madrid for the last three years one of the major questions ahead of this season will be whether the dominance by the Spaniards can be broken. On the Futbolgrad Network, we cover the Bundesliga, the post-Soviet space and the Balkans in-depth.

As part of our coverage, we preview the groups that involve one or more teams of the Futbolgrad Network universe. Up first is Borussia Dortmund’s Group A that also includes Atlético Madrid, AS Monaco and Club Brugge.

Champions League – Group A – Team by team breakdown

Borussia Dortmund

Last Season

Only the better goal differential saved Borussia Dortmund from the worst-case scenario of having to play in the Europa League this season. The club started the season with Dutch head coach Peter Bosz, who was fired in December after going a month without a victory and finishing third in the Champions League group with Tottenham and Real Madrid. Peter Stöger, who was sacked by Köln just days before his appointment in Dortmund, came in and stabilised the situation somewhat. But disappointing results in the Europa League and a poor finish in the Bundesliga meant that the Austrian and the club parted ways at the end of the season.

Manager

Lucien Favre came in to replace Stöger this summer. The 60-year-old is considered one of the best tactical coaches in world football and for the first time in his career is given to chance to try out his approach at a top European club. Favre has previously coached Hertha Berlin and Borussia Mönchengladbach in Germany. A gentleman on and off the pitch Favre is, however, also an indecisive leader with a tendency to question his abilities. Both at Gladbach and Hertha Favre had to be convinced on several occasions not to step down, and at Gladbach, he ultimately left the club despite the club refusing to accept his resignation. At Dortmund, he is now surrounded by the likes of sporting director Michael Zorc, team manager Sebastian Kehl, CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and external consultant Matthias Sammer, who will help Favre when it comes to off-field decisions.

Key Players

New signings Axel Witsel, Thomas Delaney and Abdou Diallo, will all play significant roles this season. Dortmund then also finally found a new striker ahead of the transfer deadline in Barcelona striker Paco Alcacer. Witsel, in particular, will be asked to become a leader on and off the pitch. Furthermore, US wunderkind Christian Pulisic will be given a much bigger role this season, and his rise in the hierarchy was evident during Dortmund’s tour of the United States this summer. But the most critical player in the squad will be Marco Reus, who extended his contract this spring while Dortmund were struggling in the league. Reus’ fitness will be paramount for Dortmund’s success this season.

New signing Axel Witsel (l) and captain Marco Reus (r) are expected to lead Borussia Dortmund through the Champions League group stage (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

New signing Axel Witsel (l) and captain Marco Reus (r) are expected to lead Borussia Dortmund through the Champions League group stage (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Preferred Lineup 

Bürki – Schmelzer, Diallo, Akanji, Piszczek – Delaney, Witsel, Dahoud – Reus, Paco Alcacer, Pulisic

Predictions

Dortmund are still in a rebuild that will likely take two more transfer windows. But under Favre, the club should be more stable than last season. Borussia Dortmund want to reach at least the quarterfinals and given the draw that should be within the realm of possibilities.

Atlético Madrid

Last Season

Atlético Madrid finished second in La Liga ahead of rivals Real Madrid but 14-points behind champions FC Barcelona. In Europe, Los Colchoneros finished third in a Champions League group that included Roma and Chelsea. Relegated to the Europa League Atlético dominated the competition and won the trophy by beating Olympique Marseille 3-o in the final.

Manager

Diego Simeone is Atlético Madrid. The Argentine was appointed in 2011 and has since won one La Liga title (2014) the Copa del Rey (2013), two Europa League titles (2012 and 2018) and reached the final of the Champions League on two occasions (2014 and 2016). The 48-year-old has been the mastermind of an era at the club. An aggressive leader Simeone has his side play attractive power football. Off the pitch, his mentality, however, can be his biggest enemy and Simeone will have to follow the first three games from the stands after he was banned from UEFA for his sideline behaviour following a foul committed by his player Sime Vrsaljko.

Key Players

It was perhaps the best news of the summer transfer window for Atleti fans. Antoine Griezmann announced during the World Cup that he would stay at the club. The 27-year-old winger is the face of Atlético as well as France and his decision to stay went against the trend of the biggest stars eventually leaving Atlético for either Barcelona, Real Madrid or England. On his side striker Diego Costa is always a dangerman and defender Diego Godín is among the best centre-backs in the world.

World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann surprised many when he announced that he would remain with Atlético Madrid (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann surprised many when he announced that he would remain with Atlético Madrid (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Preferred Lineup 

Oblak – Lucas Hernandez, Godin, Gimenez, Juanfran – Koke, Thomas – Lemar, Griezmann, Saul Niguez – Diego Costa

Predictions

Atlético and Borussia Dortmund will fight it out for first place in Group A. The Spaniards, however, have the stronger squad and could even be among the teams trying to break through Real Madrid’s dominance of the competition.

Monaco

Last Season

Ahead of the season AS Monaco lost vital players Kylian Mbappé to PSG and Bernardo Silva to Manchester City. Without those two key players, it was almost impossible for Monaco to defend their 2017 Ligue 1 title. Instead, Les Monégasques finished second in Ligue 1 13 points behind champions Paris Saint-Germain. In the Champions League Monaco also failed to repeat the success from the 2016/17 season crashing out in the group stage. Then in the summer Monaco once again lost key players with Fabinho, Liverpool, Thomas Lemar, Atlético, and João Moutinho, Wolverhampton Wanderers, leaving the club.

Manager

Portuguese head coach Leonardo Jardim will once again have to oversee a rebuild. The 44-year-old has been at Monaco ever since joining the club from Sporting Lisbon in 2014. Born in Barcelona, Venezuela, Jardim is a typical builder, a coach, who develops young players. It is a key ingredient to be successful at Monaco – as the club has very much become a development club for Europe’s top teams under Russian oligarch owner Dmitry Rybolovlev.

Key Players

Radamel Falcao is the biggest star of the team. The 32-year-old Colombian striker has regained his scoring touch over the last three seasons and is always a dangerous player. Goalkeeper Danijel Subašić returned from the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a silver medal. Speaking of Russia. New signing Aleksandr Golovin was a star with the Russian national team and is now supposed to make the next step in his development in Ligue 1.

Falcao will be Monaco's key player in Group A (VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Falcao will be Monaco’s key player in Group A (VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Preferred Lineup 

Subasic – Barreca, Jemerson, Glik, Sidibe – Tielemans, Golovin – Rony Lopes – Jovetic, Chadli – Falcao

Predictions

Monaco has a good squad, but the new signings need some time to gel first. Expect Monaco to challenge for a top two spot, but ultimately Atlético and Dortmund should finish ahead of the Ligue 1 side.

Club Brugge

Last Season

Club Brugge won their 15th title last season finishing 12-points ahead of runner-ups RSC Anderlecht. In Europe, however, Brugge were eliminated by Istanbul Basaksehir in the UEFA Champions League third qualification round and then AEK Athens in the UEFA Europa League playoffs.

Manager

40-year-old Ivan Leko guided the club to the Belgium title last season. Born in Split Leko played 98 games for Brugge between 2005 and 2009 Leko had very little coaching experience when he took over the club. But the Croatian surprised many in Belgium by winning the title with the club last season. Following last year’s title, Leko was named the manager of the year in Belgium. Under Leko Brugge will likely line up with three in the back and a compact five-man midfield that is focused on damage limitations first and goal scoring second.

Key Players

Ruud Vormer and Hans Vanaken are the heart and soul of this team. The two central midfielders will dictate Brugge’s game and while the more offensive minded Vanaken is the man for the last pass Vormer is the vacuum cleaner in front of defence freeing up space for Vanaken’s offensive contribution.

Hans Vanaken of Club Brugge KV in action during the Jupiler Pro League match between Royal Excel Mouscron and Club Brugge at Stade Le Canonnier on August 5, 2018 in Mouscron, Belgium. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Hans Vanaken of Club Brugge KV in action during the Jupiler Pro League match between Royal Excel Mouscron and Club Brugge at Stade Le Canonnier on August 5, 2018 in Mouscron, Belgium. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Preferred Lineup 

Letica – Denswil, Mitrovic, Poulain – Rits, Vormer – Danjuma, Vanaken, Dennis – Wesley, Vossen

Predictions

Brugge will finish bottom of the group.

Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada.  Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 1
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    Lowkey BVB 2 weeks

    Bold prediction.

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