After VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach were ousted by FC Dynamo Kyiv in the UEFA Champions League play-offs, only three of Germany's four contenders have reached the group stage – what are their chances of going further still?
FC Bayern München, agonisingly close to winning the competition last term, are serious contenders once more. Bayern appear to have made shrewd summer acquisitions, notably luring Dante Bonfim from 'Gladbach to strengthen the centre of a defence which looked porous at times in 2011/12.
Last season, the big question was what would happen if Mario Gomez picked up an injury, with no experienced striker ready to fill in. That is no longer a concern, however, following the signings of Mario Mandžukić and Claudio Pizarro.
Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri has also made quite an impact in his first few weeks at Bayern and then there is Javi Martínez, the most expensive transfer in Bundesliga history. Bayern should cruise through a group containing FC BATE Borisov, LOSC Lille and Valencia CF – after that, anything is possible.
Borussia Dortmund's section – AFC Ajax, Manchester City FC and Real Madrid CF – is a far more perilous proposition. Should Dortmund's fans be getting excited at the prospect of some classic European nights or simply resigned to a group stage exit? Dominant domestically in the past two years, Jürgen Klopp's side are keen to make their mark in Europe as well.
The addition of Marco Reus, an adroit dribbler with goals in his locker, will surely aid Dortmund's cause. However, their lack of experience in continental competition could count against them, and a place in the knockout stages would already be a considerable achievement.
FC Schalke 04 have been nowhere near their Ruhr Valley rivals in the Bundesliga but have enjoyed relative success in Europe, getting to the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League semi-finals and the last eight of last season's UEFA Europa League. That recent pedigree should at least help them advance from Group B, where they come up against Arsenal FC, Montpellier Hérault SC and Olympiacos FC.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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