On Tuesday, the 203-14 installment of the UEFA Champions League officially gets started with Matchday 1, but it won’t be until Wednesday that the marquee and most intriguing games of this first round will be contested.
One of those games to be contested is the Group F encounter to be played at the San Paolo between SSC Napoli and Borussia Dortmund in a match where taking three points in game one in the “group of death” will be vital.
Borussia Dortmund surprised many by making it to the final of last season’s Champions League, only to lose to fellow German rival Bayern Munich in what was the best Champions League final contested since the competition became to be called what it is today.
It would be unrealistic to expect that Borussia Dortmund can be that surprise team again this season given that they are considered by many to be the favorites to win this season’s “group of death”. That said, the team they are facing off on Wednesday in Napoli are the team most likely to be what Borussia Dortmund were in 2012-13.
Like Borussia Dortmund in 2012-13, Napoli find themselves in a “group of death” during the group stage. Last season, Dortmund were that darkhorse team in a group that included Real Madrid, Manchester City and Ajax. Napoli are a mirror image of Dortmund from last season in this respect.
Last season in Champions League play, Dortmund were a team who scared the opposition because of the skill, speed and technical abilities of their attacking players like Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze and Marco Reus, to name a few.
In this season’s Champions League play, Napoli have a number of players with the same type of ability and skill level that will haunt opposing Group F foes with the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Marek Hamsik and Lorenzo Insigne. These players make Napoli a team who will hurt the opposition on counter attacks, just like Dortmund did in 2012-13.
The similarities don’t end there, as the fact that Napoli will be coached by a man who is considered a great tactician. Last season, Jurgen Klopp was widely recognized as having brilliantly put together game plans which saw Dortmund win despite having what many considered a weak defense.
This season, Napoli will be coached by Rafael Benitez, who is known to be a great tactician and will be able to hide what is also considered a team weakness on defense.
Whenever a team like Borussia Dortmund did what they did last season in Champions League, everyone will start to try and identify who has the potential to fill that dark horse role. For 2013-14, it is clear that one will have to look no further than their opponent on Wednesday in Napoli.