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Analysis: European football expert Andy Brassell on our Champions League draw

Posted on 25 August 2017  - 14:45

We take a closer look at our UEFA Champions League draw with Andy Brassell, highly-regarded European football expert and a regular on the BBC, Guardian, BT Sport and talkSPORT2's European Football Show.

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Andy Brassell

andy_brassell- European football writer/broadcaster
- Regular contributor on BBC, The Guardian and BT Sport
- Co-host of talkSPORT2's European Football Show

We've been drawn against Champions League holders and La Liga champions Real Madrid, Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund and Cyprus champions APOEL in Group H of the UEFA Champions League.

Our schedule is:

Wed 13 Sep - Borussia Dortmund (H)
Tue 26 Sep - APOEL (A)
Tue 17 Oct - Real Madrid (A)
Wed 1 Nov - Real Madrid (H)
Tue 21 Nov - Borussia Dortmund (A)
Wed 6 Dec - APOEL (H)

Kick-off times will be confirmed in due course.

Here's what Andy had to say about our opponents...

Below: Cristiano Ronaldo

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Real Madrid

- La Liga champions and 12-times Champions League winners including 2014, 2016, 2017

Andy: "They look as if they are set to build a dynasty and it doesn’t look like there is anyone close to them at the moment, and that’s not just because Neymar has left Barcelona, but because they’ve been known for netting big players in the past, but now they are planning for the future as well. Zinedine Zidane is a huge part of that and he’s creating a meritocracy at the club, players know they will be picked because they are playing well enough to get in. You still have people asking ‘when young players go to Real Madrid, do they stand a chance of getting in the team?’, well they stand a chance because Zidane has proved that it doesn’t matter who you are or how old you are, if you are good enough, you will get a chance. So young players like Dani Ceballos (Betis) and Theo Hernandez (Atletico Madrid) who came in this summer feel they can get a go just like Marco Asensio and Isco have, he’s a little older but has managed to work his way into the team as well. It’s not just that they have an immensely strong first 11, but they are also set for years to come. There is competition all over the pitch and what Zidane has been able to do is rely on the players outside the 11 to come in and do a great job and that’s been the case for a while now. They became the first team to retain the Champions League in the Champions League era (the European Cup was re-branded as the Champions League in 1992-93) and they did in great style with that second half performance against Juventus in Cardiff (winning 4-1) and you feel they can build on that. You can see where they are going for the next generation as well and that’s really important."

Below: Dortmund's Marco Reus and Julian Weigl with the DFB Cup

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Borussia Dortmund

- Third in Bundesliga 2016-17, Champions League quarter-finalists 2016-17, winners 1996, runners-up 2013

Andy: "Dortmund are in a bit of a funny place at the moment. They got rid of a very successful coach last season in Thomas Tuchel and Peter Bosz hasn’t got a huge level of experience, although of course he took Ajax to the final of the Europa League last season. He has made a good immediate impression though, they play with great energy, like Ajax, but Dortmund have better players and that’s a real start. Dortmund have had the Ousmane Dembele situation (linked with Barcelona) hanging over them all summer but they have enormous strength in depth. They started the season with a long injury list, big players out like Marco Reus, Julian Weigl, the midfield pivot, two left-backs out, Raphael Guerreiro one of them, but they’ve just got on with it. Christian Pulisic looks set to have a huge season, he’s already the big hope of US soccer and of the players they’ve brought in, Maximilian Philipp (from FC Freiburg) had a good debut and Mario Gotze (who scored the winner in the 2014 World Cup Final) being fit again is massive. There were people talking about his career maybe being over but he’s worked hard to get himself back and he’s pleased with Bosz’s arrival, he feels like he’s the right coach for him and if they can get him back to 80% this season they will be flying. Even though the coach has changed, they have a reasonable amount of stability, certainly more than last summer when they lost three players in Mats Hummels, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gundogan all at the same time. The games between Dortmund, Real Madrid and Spurs will be really exciting, all teams who want to have a go."

Below: APOEL line-up against Anderlecht in the Europa League in March

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APOEL

- Current Cypriot champions and 26x title-winners, Champions League quarter-finalists 2011-12

Andy: "They’ve built a reputation in Europe over a long period now. Remember, they reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League back in 2012. They are very strong at home and they’ve continued to make a dent in Europe since then. It’s a machine that works. They have experienced players in there like Nuno Morais, who was at Chelsea for a while, he’s a club legend who has played over 300 games for them, Igor De Camargo, who is a real tricky customer up front and had enormous experience in the Champions League with Standard Liege and scored important goals in the play-off round on the way to the group stage. Any team that can get through six games to get through to the Champions League group stage, beating decent teams including Slavia Prague (Czech Republic) and Viitorul (Romania). They will be looking at the top of the group and thinking ‘maybe these three teams will take points off each other’ and that they can do something from there, especially at home. They have shown their nerve as well this season, just look at the match against Viitorul in the third qualifying round, it was 0-0 but then 4-0 after extra time, that’s where they used that extra experience."