They call it the group of death for a reason.
On the opening match day of the group stage, Borussia Dortmund were played off the pitch of the Parc des Princes by Paris Saint-Germain. In previous seasons they may have had Club Brugge, Viktoria Plzen, or some other pushovers to shake off the rust against, but in this season’s group of death, that’s not the case. Instead, BVB’s next opponent is AC Milan, one of the most successful clubs in the history of the Champions League.
While this AC Milan might not be a match for previous generations of this great club, they are still a very talented squad that gave Newcastle all they could handle last month. They have rebounded from a disastrous performance in the Milan Derby, earlier in the season, to climb all the way back to being level on points with their rivals Internazionale at the top of the Serie A table.
With Dortmund currently sitting at the bottom of the group, the margin for error is already slim. If Milan win, they will be four points clear of Dortmund, and BVB’s path to the knockout stages for BVB could already start slipping over the horizon.
Player to Watch: Rafael Leão
While Olivier Giroud, with his meaty French forehead, has gotten off to the hottest start of any AC Milan player this season, if there’s one man at Milan who is a certified world class talent, it’s Rafael Leão. The Portuguese winger led I Rossoneri in both goals and assists in Serie A last season, and was a big part of the Italian club’s qualification for the Champions League. This season he’s right back at it, with three goals and three assists in his first seven appearances. In terms of his skills, he can pretty much do it all. He’s explosive on the ball and can destroy defenders with ease, and he can both finish and set up goals. BVB’s full backs will have their hands full tomorrow.
Another honorable mention goes to Christian Pulisic, who has had an excellent start to life in Milan. It will be interesting to see how he is received in what will probably be his first start back at the Westfalenstadion.
Edin Terzic appears to select his players based almost entirely on recent form, so I expect him to run out Salih Özcan again. While Marco Reus played 80 minutes against Hoffenheim on Saturday, he unfortunately seems to be one of the few midfielders in decent form at the moment, so he’s going to have to provide his services again. At full back, I prefer Ramy Bensebaini and Julian Ryerson for a bit more defensive stability than Marius Wolf, just because of AC Milan’s aforementioned threats on the wings.
If I don’t predict a win then I’m essentially predicting BVB to play in the Europa League next spring, so I’ll go with a 2-1 win with an exhilarating last-minute winner from Donyell Malen.