Champions League: Dortmund, Barcelona meet in much awaited clash

Borussia Dortmund hosts Barcelona in one of the marquee fixtures of matchday one of the Champions League, with the two clubs also renewing their pursuit of silverware after disappointing ends to their 2018-19 seasons.

Lionel Messi is expected to line-up for Barcelona against Borussia Dortmund after recovering from a calf injury.   -  AFP

Westfalenstadion will host a fixture that has been 21 years in the making, with two of Europe's iconic clubs coming face to face on Tuesday. Some might say a meeting between Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona has come a little late, with the two clubs not exactly at their best and lacking some of the stardust from previous years, but the draw was finally kind to match last season's LaLiga champion from pot one with the Bundesliga runner-up from pot two in Group F.

Dortmund and Barcelona are coming off a season of near-misses in different competitions and have made ordinary starts (by their standards) in their respective domestic leagues. However, a fixture of this magnitude can spark these two teams into life with the season still in its infancy.

Lionel Messi has been named in Barcelona's squad and declared fit for Tuesday's fixture, which could be his first appearance for the club this season. Sidelined by a calf injury picked up in pre-season, the 32-year-old's absence has coincided with Barcelona's poor start to its LaLiga title defence.

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Messi gave a passionate speech at the start of the 2018-19 season, promising to go all out to bring the Champions League trophy back to the Camp Nou after taking over as club captain from Andres Iniesta, who joined Japanese club Vissel Kobe. Messi and Barcelona failed in their pursuit at the penultimate hurdle, with Liverpool staging one of the great comebacks to win the tie 4-3 on aggregate. But the Catalan club once again starts the new European season as a front-runner for the Champions League trophy.

Ahead of the Dortmund fixture, Messi said: "Every year, the Champions League is evenly balanced; sometimes it's harder to win. The competition is fairly even and only the best make it here. That's what makes this tournament so special.

"We got Dortmund, whom we've never played [since I have been here]. I remember seeing their stadium on TV and I've always liked it because of the fans and what the club itself represents. We also got Inter. We faced them last year too on their ground, but I couldn't play because I was injured. It's a difficult group but it's an interesting challenge."

Dortmund is an outsider to win the competition and Group F is considered to be the proverbial group of death with Inter Milan also a contender to qualify for the round of 16.

At the pre-match press conference on Monday, Dortmund captain Marco Reus said his team can make a winning start.

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"We have to concentrate on ourselves. It will of course be a tough game tomorrow, and we are going to have to suffer a lot," he said of the challenge. "We have a good team, we are at home, and we can win the game."

The fixture promises to be an exhibition of attacking football. A lethal attacking line featuring English winger Jadon Sancho, former Barcelona forward Paco Alcacer and Reus himself has helped Dortmund score 13 goals - the highest in the division - in four Bundesliga fixtures this season. Barcelona, with Messi's return and Antoine Griezmann adding further teeth to the attack after his transfer from Atletico Madrid, is not short of ammunition either. And for the 80,000-plus spectators at the venue and the millions tuning in worldwide, Dortmund versus Barcelona promises to be a spectacle.

Key stats

- Dortmund and Barcelona meet for the first time since the 1997 UEFA Super Cup

- Barcelona is making its 16th consecutive Champions League group-stage appearance, while for Dortmund, this is its eighth appearance in the last nine seasons

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