Mixed feelings for German clubs after UEFA Champions League draw

Borussia Dortmund’s supporters experienced a roller-coaster of emotions on Thursday.

While the transfer of Germany’s top striker, Niclas Fullkrug, from Werder Bremen might have ignited euphoria, the mood dampened hours later with the draw of the 2023-2024 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, and Premier League side Newcastle have made Group F a potential minefield for the 2012 German champions. Club CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke described it as “the most difficult group” and called the draw “a vast challenge.”

Coach Edin Terzic said the club’s ambition to reach the knockout stage remains unchanged and vowed a lion-hearted effort.

Group C also looks challenging for Champions League newcomers Union Berlin, who will face Spanish giants Real Madrid, Italy’s reigning champions Napoli, and Portuguese side Braga.

Venturing into uncharted territory with modest expectations, Union might view its group games as an adventurous journey, especially considering their promotion to the top tier just four years ago in 2019.

Union president Dirk Zingler said “a day that made our fans and me happy. To play Real and Napoli in competitive games is a unique experience we gratefully take.”

Berlin defender Robin Knoche anticipates a “breathtaking atmosphere” and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the team’s supporters.

Reaching the knockout stage seems like a tall order for both Union and Dortmund.

The 2020 treble winners and German record holders Bayern Munich, along with 2020 Champions League semifinalists Leipzig, have a realistic shot at advancing to the next round.

While Bayern will face off against Manchester United, Copenhagen, and Galatasaray in Group A, Leipzig is eyeing Group G’s second spot, presumably behind the 2023 Champions League victors Manchester City, but ahead of Young Boys and Red Star Belgrade.

Leipzig’s sporting director, Max Eberl, recalled the painful memory of the Sky Blues’ quality, referencing RB’s crushing 7-0 defeat in the last 16 round the previous season.

Leipzig will not only confront goal-machine Erling Haaland but also Josko Gvardiol. The Croatian international’s transfer to the Citizens this summer for 90 million euros, plus bonuses, made the 21-year-old the priciest defender in football history.

Bayern’s latest signing, England captain Harry Kane, expressed on social media that he “can’t wait for it.”

Bayern chairman Jan-Christian Dressen called for a better performance than in the past three years, noting, “as we got kicked out in the last eight three consecutive times since taking the trophy in 2020.” ■

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