Spurs need Wembley magic with Madrid, Dortmund to come: UCL Group H preview
With the UEFA Champions League starting on Tuesday 12th September, ENRG Sport is previewing the famous European competition by analysing each of the eight groups. Providing you with all the information so you know what to expect as the tournament progresses.
By Gregor Kerr
While it would be possibly harsh to label this the “group of death” considering the quality of other groups, few will be as tight to call as Group H. Here, we take a look at the teams, players and stats in this group.
The current champions, no team is more decorated historically and recently than Los Blancos. Zinedine Zidane’s side became the first team in Champions League history to retain the trophy under the current format, breezing past Juventus in Cardiff to win their third Champions League trophy in four years.
Real are favourites to win the trophy for an unprecedented third year in a row, and look like an almost impossible side to defeat, losing just two matches in the competition over the previous two seasons, and scoring 91 goals throughout that period.
There’s one player that stands out in this category and it’s the man who has collected the Golden Boot for Europe’s finest competition for the previous five years; Cristiano Ronaldo. The current Ballon D’Or holder had a big say in the previous two trophy wins, with a double against Juventus this year and the winning penalty against Atletico Madrid in 2016.
Marco Asensio was arguably the breakout star of Real Madrid’s previous campaign, developing a reputation as an agile creator who can find the back of the net from any range, and any angle. The Spanish mother, who comes from a Dutch background, scored on his debut in La Liga, Champions League, Copa Del Rey, European Super Cup and Spanish Super Cup. The former Mallorca forward lit up Europe’s biggest competition last season and can take his form to an even higher level this year.
Tournament odds: 7/2
Quarter finalists last season, Dortmund have had a relatively enjoyable time in the Champions League in recent years, reaching the quarter final in four of the last six seasons. They also had a year’s stint in the Europa League, beating future opponents Tottenham 5-1 on aggregate.
Under Jurgen Klopp, Dortmund reached the final of the competition in 2013, losing out to Bayern Munich at Wembley. It was the closest they have come to lifting the famous trophy since their only victory in 1997, when they defeated Juventus 3-1 in Germany.
With new manager Peter Bosz at the helm, and the departure of star man Ousmane Dembele, it will be interesting to see how Dortmund compete in this year. The early signs in the league are positive however, with the Germans sitting top of the Bundesliga after three games.
A fair chunk of Dortmund’s goals in this competition will come in the shape of star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who enjoyed his finest ever goalscoring season last year, hitting 40 goals, with seven of those coming in the Champions League. Perhaps the key piece of business this summer for Die Borussen was keeping ahold of their striker.
Teenager Christian Pulisic established himself into Dortmund’s first team last season with 40 appearances, and already has two goals under his belt in the league this season. This could be the year that the American winger takes his game to the next level and becomes a key player.
Tournament odds: 50/1
After a long wait to return to the Champions League, Spurs have reached the competition two years in a row, and they couldn’t have dreaded a more challenging group. Despite last season’s record-breaking season in which Spurs finished runners-up, their Champions League campaign was a nightmare, failing to overcome the Wembley debacle and crashing out of their group as favourites.
A year on, Tottenham’s fortunes at the national stadium remain much the same. Pochettino’s side, however, are too talented not to adjust to the Wembley pitch, but doing it in such an elite competition is an even bigger ask.
Spurs will be hoping to recreate their performance from the 2010/11 European Campaign, when they reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the first time in their history. Ironically, they were knocked out by Real Madrid.
The only real key player missing from last season’s campaign is right-back Kyle Walker, who was adequately replaced by Paris Saint Germain’s Serge Aurier; a like-for-like player. Other inclusions feature experienced Spanish striker Fernando Llorente, scorer of 22 European goals, and Davinson Sanchez, a center-back who impressed during Ajax’s run to the Europa League final last season.
Tottenham’s poster-boy Harry Kane will be hoping to get a fair crack at the Champions league this season, after missing half of last year’s group stage matches, despite still scoring two goals at that stage. After making his name in the Europa League and Premier League, this season is Kane’s chance to establish himself in the world-class bracket of strikers.
Tournament odds: 40/1
The Cypriot side, with all due respect, are expected to be the whipping boys of the group. After negotiating beyond Dudelange and Viitorul in earlier stages, Apoel reached the group stages for the fifth time with a 2-1 aggregate win over Slavia Prague.
They aren’t strangers to the bright lights of Europe though, last reaching the group stages in 2014/15 when they met the likes of PSG and Barcelona.
Their finest European campaign though, without doubt, was in the 2011/12 when the Cypriots went all the way to the quarter-final stage, picking up historic wins against Porto and Lyon on their way. The dream ended against the might of Real Madrid, who they face again this year.
While they finished bottom of their last Champions League group, they limited PSG to just one goal both home and away, while only conceding once in the Camp Nou.
Whilst they, by all logic, should struggle to pick up many points,the three big boys should be wary of the threats posed by Cyprus’ most successful club. They hold the potential to cause an upset.
Tournament odds: 750/1
Gregor’s Group H prediction:
- Real Madrid