The UEFA Champions League group stage draw generated a lot of excitement and anticipation among Barça fans. And the eventual outcome has certainly handed us some food for thought and consideration. Bayern Munich, Benfica and Dynamo Kiev are the three sides that we will be facing in the opening phase of the tournament.
The clubs we will face
The main talking point is, naturally, the two-leg remake of that dreadfully painful night in Lisbon. On that day Barcelona were battered by future CL winners Bayern Munich. The fear of history repeating itself is inevitably present, yet context matters. And that – while certainly not in our favour – hands us a better shot at resistance. Moreover, it competitiveness at the very least. Barça are arguably better off compared to this time a year ago, while Bayern are not acclimated to Julian Nagelsmann’s ideas yet. It’s not as straightforward as it may seem at first glance.
Benfica, meanwhile, are, albeit nowhere near their best during Jorge Jesús’ first stint at the club, still a decently competitive unit. Aggressive and vertical, they have maintained their attractive playing style, even though that has not proved as fruitful as before. Their compact mid-block shall be a testament to Barcelona’s competitive spirit and mental preparation. It should be an enthralling battle.
Last, but not least, there’s our old friends from last term – Dynamo Kiev. Mircea Lucescu has been unable to replicate much of the European success that he enjoyed with arch-rivals Shakhtar Donetsk, even though Dynamo did manage to secure a domestic treble in the Romanian’s first year in charge. Practicing a tentative approach, breaking them down will be no simple task.
Group E may initially look like a two-horse race for Barça after the group stage draw. But there is far more to it than a rematch between Bayern and Barça. We will come up against three teams with different capacities and approaches, a factor which makes an already enthralling group even more captivating.