The 2019-20 season of the UEFA Champions League starts for real next month when the 32 teams qualified for the group stage begin the fight for 16 places in the knockout rounds. Barcelona have been dealt a tough hand with a draw into the Group of Death alongside Borussia Dortmund, Inter Milan and Slavia Prague.
There is no denying this is a brutal group to be a part of, but it could not be a better situation for the Spanish champions.
The group stage starts with a trip to the Signal Iduna Park to face Borussia Dortmund and the Yellow Wall, a spectacular atmosphere and what could be the best game of the entire first phase of the European Cup.
Dortmund are real contenders for the Bundesliga title, and their furious pressing and pace will cause plenty of trouble. Former Blaugrana Paco Alcácer will be licking his chops to face the club that perhaps didn’t give him enough chances, but there’s so much talent around him: Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus, Thorgan Hazard, Julian Brandt, Axel Witsel, Mats Hummels. The depth is just ridiculous, and the opening match in Germany along with the return game at Camp Nou will most likely decide first place in the group.
Getting anything in Dortmund would be a good result, and winning at home won’t be easy either. Barça will be facing a team with semifinal potential twice in the group stage, a real test for the defense, the midfield and the attack. I can’t wait for these two to do battle.
Inter Milan will come to Camp Nou on Matchday 2, and you can already expect a tough, frustrating match for the Catalans. Inter were in Barça’s group last season and didn’t really bother the group winners, but this year things will be different: the arrival of big signings like Romelu Lukaku and especially new manager Antonio Conte will ensure that Inter will be defensively solid and very dangerous up front, and they’ll be a tough opponent both at Camp Nou and San Siro.
Even though they’re in the Group of Death, Barça were very lucky with one thing in this draw: they’ll face the worst team in the group twice in a row, in Matchdays 3 and 4. Slavia Prague are the Czech champions and are already five points clear after seven league matches this season, but they aren’t on Barça’s level and the Blaugrana must win six points from these two games while Inter and Dortmund face each other twice.
Winning Group F won’t be easy, but 6 of the 16 Champions League winners since the new format for the competition was introduced have come out of Group F — no idea why — so there’s good news there. The better news is that a tough group is a perfect way to make this team stronger and tougher, so when the knockouts come around they are battle-tested and accustomed to facing really good teams.
Bring on the Champions League.