Analyzing Real Madrid's UEFA Champions League group stage opponents
Real Madrid begin their defence of the UEFA Champions League with history on the line. Los Blancos could become immortal by becoming the first club in the history of football to win the UEFA Champions League three times in a row, although other clubs like Ajax and Bayern Munich have managed to do so in the European Cup era.
Cristiano Ronaldo inspired his side to European glory last time around, and with Madrid's domination of Manchester United and Barcelona in the UEFA Super Cup and the Supercopa de Espanya before the league season began, there were plenty of pundits who predicted a treble for Los Blancos.
However, injuries have forced cracks to appear in Madrid's hitherto unbreakable facade, and doubts have now begun to surface about Zinedine Zidane's side and their ability to repeat the European triumph.
Madrid have a fairly demanding group stage in the UEFA Champions League, with plenty of banana peel-esque fixtures in Group H.
Arguably Real Madrid's toughest opponents from Group H, Borussia Dortmund are probably the likeliest to be able to defeat Real Madrid. With Christian Pulisic, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mario Gotze and Marco Reus all dovetailing in attack, Dortmund are a superb threat going forward.
Peter Bosz has begun to place his imprint on the side, and he's far more canny in a tactical sense than Thomas Tuchel, so could potentially cause Los Blancos a fair bit of trouble.
Best Player: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - The Gabonese striker has been among the goals for the last few seasons, catching the eye of Madrid as well, with Aubameyang making clear his desire to play in the white shirt. A chance to audition for Zinedine Zidane and Florentino Perez will surely not pass him by, and we can expect the Dortmund striker to run Madrid's defence ragged.
Weakness: For quite a while, Dortmund's defence has been their weak point, however - Peter Bosz has managed to oversee 4 consecutive clean sheets in the start to the season. Yet, the lack of stardust, now that Ousmane Dembele has left, coupled with Dortmund's terrible record with injuries could see the Schwarzgelben unravel.
1st Leg (Away): Borussia Dortmund 3-2 Real Madrid
2nd Leg (Home): Real Madrid 3-1 Borussia Dortmund
European History: Dortmund won the UEFA Champions League in 1996/97 and then finished runners-up to Bayern Munich in 2012/13. They have won two UEFA Cups, one UEFA Super Cup and a UEFA Cup Winners Cup
APOEL have a surprising European pedigree, for those who underestimate the Cypriot champions. This is only the third time they have qualified for the UEFA Champions League, although they did reach the quarter-final stages before.
The Cypriot league winners defeated Athletic Bilbao in the UEFA Europa League knockout stages last season, and are well aware of how Spanish sides play, having previously faced both Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Best Player: Nuno Morais - With striker Pieros Sotiriou having departed for FC Copenhagen, APOEL have lost a serious goal threat, leaving Nuno Morais perhaps the best player in their squad. The defensive stalwart already has experience of playing at the Bernabeu, being the sole surviving member of the team that played Madrid in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League.
Weakness: Lack of experience and ability - it's no secret here. APOEL's manager has himself said that given their quality, the best they can hope for is 3rd place. The Cypriot's are unlikely to trouble many sides going forward, so ought to hope that they finish their chances.
1st Leg (Home): Real Madrid 2-0 APOEL Nicosia
2nd Leg (Away): APOEL Nicosia 0-0 Real Madrid
European History: APOEL stunned the world of football with a run to the quarterfinals of the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League, where they went out to Real Madrid with an 8-2 aggregate loss.
Mauricio Pochenttino has the wherewithal to really trouble Real Madrid, as his defensive shape could make things difficult for Madrid going forward. Spurs have quality going forward too, but ought not to have enough to trouble Madrid's defence, if it is the first-choice team in play.
Best Player: Harry Kane - 101 goals for Spurs in all competitions, and it quite clear that Harry Kane is no longer a one-season wonder. Yes, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli are probably as important for Spurs, but when it comes to the player who could potentially damage Real Madrid the most, it ought to be Kane, who's scored twice in three UEFA Champions League appearances.
Weakness: Wembley. Spurs hoodoo at Wembley might well and truly be gone by the time Madrid come to visit London, but the lack of the atmosphere at White Hart lane could significantly make things easier for Madrid. A lack of experience in the big games could also work in Madrid's favour.
1st Leg (Home): Real Madrid 3-1 Tottenham Hotspur
2nd Leg (Away): Tottenham Hotspur 0-2 Real Madrid
European History: Spurs have won the UEFA Cup twice, also lifting the UEFA Cup Winners Cup once. In their debut season in the UEFA Champions League, Tottenham reached the quarterfinals, where they went out to Real Madrid by a 5-0 aggregate.