This season’s Champions League campaign will be an interesting one for losing finalists Borussia Dortmund. While expectations have risen due to their performances last year, coach Jürgen Klopp was quick to temper them by spotlighting the 2015 final as a more realistic target as long ago as the post-match press conference at Wembley back in May.
Despite this, as well as being in an incredibly even-handed group including Arsenal and Olympique Marseilles, it will be hard for even those that trust Klopp to not get at least a little excited. Since beginning their regeneration post-Mario Götze, they have started the league season with five wins out of five, a record breaking start for Dortmund who have never started so well before.
The addition of Armenian superstar creative midfield player Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who is quite possibly the fastest pro-footballer in the world, suggests they can be even more destructive going forward than they were with Götze around. The 6-2 drubbing of Hamburg that precedes this was a state in point, with Dortmund ripping Hamburg to shreds the minute Hamburg were forced to open up.
However, this Napoli team has had a reputation for being the same creative, open side as have become a regular Champions League qualifier in recent years. The similarities continue as new boss Rafael Benitez stepped into the job this summer knowing that he would have to do the same regeneration job after the sale of Edinson Cavani to PSG, that Klopp has needed to do with the Götze situation.
Benitez has gone on a Real Madrid scavenge to complete his regeneration with similar results, winning three from three to top Serie A, albeit by adjusting the way Napoli play. With the additions of Raul Albiol, Jose Callejon and Gonzalo Higuain, he has moved away from the back three that not only helped Napoli to their success but has become the stock formation for Italian clubs as a result. Switching to a back four is something that feels more comfortable for the Spaniard but it is their own creative three behind Higuain that may give Napoli the added panache in both domestic and Champions League.
They have added Callejon and already had Marek Hamsik but it is the third member of the trio that is turning heads. Lorenzo Insigne has started this season in top form on the back of his impressive European under-21 Championships in the summer, enjoying the freedom given to him by the formation changes behind him reducing his defensive responsibilities. As a result he has catapulted himself into the full international set-up and his first senior goal against Argentina.
All in all, this may be the most intriguing of opening round fixtures between two sides in terrific form but both of whom are not sure they are ready to be the finished article yet.