Football fans throughout Europe cherish the opportunity for their clubs to claim the title in Europe’s most prestigious international competition. Marquee match-ups between Europe’s powerhouses and unpredictable upsets from the tournament’s underdogs guarantee an emotional roller coaster for dedicated supporters. But no group provides the drama and anticipation as well as the notorious Group of Death.
2019 Group of Death
Borussia Dortmund have the privilege of battling FC Barcelona, Inter Milan and Slavia Prague in this year’s Group of Death. Barcelona and Inter are undoubtedly the toughest two opponents in the group. However, Slavia Prague shouldn’t be overlooked. As the clear underdog, they have a lot to gain but very little to lose and could cause a lot of chaos in the group stage.
Dortmund aren’t known for their success in the Champions League. The Black and Yellow claimed their only Champions League title by defeating Juventus in the memorable 1996-’97 finals. Led by Jurgen Klopp, Dortmund finished runners-up after losing to Bayern Munich in the 2012-’13 finals. Inter defeated Bayern in the 2009-’10 Champions League Finals to secure their third title after winning their first two in the mid-1960s. Barcelona have won the Champions League five times, and they have won four of their 5 titles in the last 15 years.
Dortmund’s Success in the Group of Death
Dortmund’s unenviable position in the Group of Death probably draws more concern than optimism. Barcelona’s squad features a plethora of talent. Inter have the potential to finish atop the Serie A. That being said, Dortmund have the talent to fight for a Bundesliga title and create problems for both Barcelona and Inter, as well.
Additionally, the Black and Yellow are no strangers to the Group of Death. During their 2012-’13 campaign, Dortmund had to escape the Group of Death before they could even dream of a spot in the Finals. Remarkably, Dortmund advanced without a loss in the group stage, finishing at the top of their group ahead of Real Madrid, Ajax and Manchester City.
What to Expect
Barcelona and Inter provide big challenges for the Black and Yellow in the group stage. However, Dortmund are very capable of beating both, especially at Signal Iduna Park. Stealing a win on the road at Barcelona would be phenomenal, but even a draw would help the Black and Yellow escape this year’s Group of Death.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Dortmund will be their match at San Siro. Much like Signal Iduna Park, San Siro is an especially difficult place for visiting clubs. Leaving San Siro with a draw would be a remarkable victory for the Black and Yellow, and conquering San Siro would almost certainly guarantee Dortmund’s security in one of the top two spots in their group.
Given Dortmund’s recent loss at Union Berlin, they cannot afford to overlook Slavia Prague. Securing all six points against the Czech club is a necessity. Additionally, the Black and Yellow can’t afford to drop any points in their home fixtures. Beating Barcelona and Inter, even at Signal Iduna Park, will not be easy. But, claiming all nine possible points at home would almost guarantee that Dortmund advance.
Dortmund vs. Everybody
While Dortmund would benefit from a few upset victories from Slavia Prague, Barcelona and Inter will likely claim six points apiece against the club. Either Barcelona or Inter could take 6 points in their two matches together, but Dortmund’s best chances of surviving the Group of Death rest in their own hands.
Statistically, there are a variety of situations where Dortmund could miss out on a few points but still survive and advance. However, the Black and Yellow have one of their most talented squads in the last decade and have ambitions of winning domestic and European championships. Championship-winning clubs don’t expect help from other clubs, they earn their championships by taking care of their own business.
Dortmund have what it takes to survive the Group of Death. The best way for them to survive is to ensure that they control their fate. Playing their best football every match is almost certain to guarantee they advance, and the best way to do that is to prioritize finishing at the top of the group. While they can still survive the Group of Death as second-best, that mentality can lead to comfort and complacency instead of determination and perseverance. Until they’re holding the trophy in celebration, they’re mindset, especially in the Group of Death, has to be “Dortmund vs. Everybody.”
A 2019 graduate from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Ryan is an aspiring sports writer with a profound passion for the Black and Yellow. On match day, Ryan can likely be seen draped in Dortmund’s colors, perennially pacing the living room of his Ann Arbor apartment. He dreams of one day watching a match from world football’s largest and most impressive standing terrace, The Yellow Wall.