Just 39 days after Bayern Munich triumphed over Paris St Germain in the 2020 Champions League final, the draw for the group stage of the 2020-21 tournament has been made with the four Bundesliga participants finding out their illustrious opponents for the forthcoming competition.
So, what is in store for the cream of German football as they begin their next European odyssey?
Reigning champions Bayern have been drawn in Group A along with Atletico Madrid, Salzburg and Lokomotive Moscow. The Spanish side were knocked-out in the quarter finals last season by RB Leipzig but will provide Bayern’s sternest test in the group stage.
There is plenty of history between the two sides with the two clubs meeting in the 1974 European Cup final (Bayern’s first of three successive wins), with Atletico then beating Bayern in the 2016 semi-finals on away goals before losing in the final to Real Madrid. Diego Simeone has strengthened his side ahead of the season with signing of Luis Suarez from Barcelona and the return of Yannick Carrasco from China.
The Bavarians also face near neighbours Salzburg. The two clubs have yet to meet in a competitive fixture but in Patson Daka and Dominik Szoboszlai they certainly have the players to give Bayern a game. The final opponents are the Russian side Lokomotive, who finished as runners-up to Zenit last season.
What they said
Hansi Flick: “It’s an interesting group. There’s no easy draw in the Champions League. The name says it all: The champions play each other. That’s why we’re looking forward to the challenge in every game, against Atlético Madrid and of course FC Salzburg, where we’ll travel by bus just an hour and a half away.”
Thomas Müller: “A very interesting group. I haven’t played against two of the teams – Salzburg and Lok Moscow. As current Champions League winners, we’re already under pressure in the group stage. But I’m really looking forward to these opponents.”
BVB are in Group F, which has the potential to be a tricky draw. Russian champions Zenit, Lazio and Club Bruges are the opponents facing the Schwarzgelben.
Travelling to St. Petersburg and getting a result is always a challenge, but in Alex Witsel Dortmund have a player, who knows the club well. Now coached by Sergei Semak they won the double last season having also won the league the year before. The two clubs have met once before in the 2013-14 round of 16 with the Ruhr side coming through 5-4 on aggregate after winning 4-2 in Russia but losing the second leg at home.
Lazio will provide another stern test for Dortmund with Simone Inzaghi’s side finishing eight points ahead of city rivals Roma last season to take fourth place. In Ciro Immobile they have the striker, who beat Robert Lewandowski to the European Golden Boot last season, which will gall with many BVB fans after the Italian striker flopped during his spell at Dortmund back in 2014-14 (just three Bundesliga goals).
Club Bruges should be the easier of the three opponents, but nothing can be taken for granted in the Champions League and anything other than six points against the Belgian side could prove costly.
What they said:
Hans-Joachim Watzke: ”Four strong teams. An interesting group. The reunion with Ciro Immobile, which we’re really looking forward to, gives the Lazio draw a special flavour. We’ll also encounter familiar faces in St. Petersburg and Bruges.”
Michael Zorc: ”It’s an interesting group. We’ve gone head-to-head with Zenit and Bruges in recent years. We’re looking forward to meeting Ciro Immobile in a Lazio jersey. Our clear goal is to make it through the group stage.”
Having made it all the way to the semi-finals last season RB Leipzig’s European reputation has been increased, but they have undeniably been drawn in the toughest of the groups concerning the German contingent. Paris St Germain (their semi-final foes) and Manchester United provide the biggest tests in Group H while Turkish side Istanbul Başakşehir will provide a tricky test as well.
Last season’s impressive Champions League campaign, while providing a boost to their standing in Europe, did impinge on die Roten Bullen’s league form and Julian Nagelsmann will once again have to juggle the two fronts if RB are to challenge Bayern for the title.
PSG will be even more determined to make up for missing out on the prize last season, while Premier League giants Manchester United’s reputation goes before them, even if their current squad doesn’t live up to previous years. It will be a real battle between them and Leipzig for a place in the top two to ensure progress and not the Europa League consolation.
What they said:
Markus Krösche, RBL sports director: “With PSG, Manchester United and the Turkish champions Başakşehir, we were drawn into a very demanding group. We know Paris from the semi-finals, so we still have a score to settle. In the last Champions League season, we caused a stir internationally by reaching the semi-finals and we showed what our young team is capable of. Our goal is of course to make it back to the round of 16 despite the difficult group.”
Back in the Champions League for the first time in four years, Gladbach have been drawn in a really tough Group B along with Real Madrid, Europa League finalists Inter and Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk. It would come as a huge surprise if the Fohlen were to progress from the group ahead of either of their more illustrious opponents, who will both have ambitions of winning the trophy.
Madrid are 13-times winners of the European Cup/ Champions League and as reigning La Liga champions need no introduction on the European front. Inter have won the trophy three times- the last time in 2010 under Jose Mourinho when they beat Bayern in the final.
What they said:
Sporting director Max Eberl: “It’s an exciting start. We’re in the Champions League – you can’t expect to come up against average teams, you’ll face the crème de la crème of Europe. We’re looking forward to the challenge. We all remember the infamous game against Inter Milan in 1971 and the name Roberto Boninsegna, the Italian striker. This fixture has a lot of history. But we obviously want to succeed in the present.
“Real Madrid and Inter Milan are two big names that play a big role in European football. Shakhtar Donetsk isn’t perhaps a big name, but a regular team in the Champions League. We want to get out of the group. We’ll do our best to win every game and hopefully make it to the knockouts. Alongside the great feeling that we’re getting started, however, is also the sad fact that Coronavirus restrictions remain in place. Our fans won’t be able to travel to the away games and only few fans will be able to attend home games at Borussia Park for the foreseeable.”
Marco Rose: “Our group has increased the excitement for the Champions League. Real and Inter are two clubs that Borussia have great history against. We’re looking forward to it, but it’s important that we stay focused on the upcoming tasks.”