May 19, 2012; Munich, GERMANY; A general view of the championship trophy before the UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea at Allianz Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mitchell Gunn-US PRESSWIRE
Well, well! The quest for La Decima has suddenly taken an extremely exciting and exceedingly difficult twist as Real Madrid wound up in Group D during the UEFA Champions League group stage draw in Monaco this afternoon. Group D for "Decima" morphed rather quickly into Group D for "Difficult" and finished as annually speculated upon 'Group of Death.' The reason for Group D's rapid, deadly metamorphosis is that the La Liga champions were joined by the reigning Premier League title holders Manchester City, two-time defending Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund and Dutch champions Ajax.
As we all talk, listen, read about and otherwise participate in the debate over which domestic league is superior: La Liga or the Premiership. It is unbelievably exciting to see the current titleholders of those leagues, Real Madrid and Manchester City, square off in such a high stakes environment like the Champions League. Will who ever triumphs in the individual ties and progresses to the knockout stages settle the argument definitively? No, certainly not. But it will provide at least a small metric of where these leagues stand in relation to one another, giving us all more evidence to ponder and debate. This is such a massive, marquee match-up, boasting two exciting sides oozing with talent and ambition. The eyes of the global football community will be focused with joy and laser-like intensity on the Bernabeu and the Eithad on the upcoming matchdays.
Borussia Dortmund are also a dangerous, talented and attack-minded side that will cause problems in the group, particularly with their extraordinary home-stadium advantage thanks in large measure to their loud, deliriously passionate supporters. Ajax, the Eredivisie Champions, are a solid squad with a proud tradition in the Champions League--and this happens to be the third consecutive year that they've had the misfortune of ending up in a group with Real Madrid. Those previous groups have at least featured another side in Ajax's weight class. Sadly, this group does not. But if we learned anything last year from Manchester United's early exit--it's that nothing can be taken for granted and I'm sure Ajax will challenge to the best of their abilities.
It must noted, though, that both City and Dortmund stumbled in the group stages of the Champions League last year, struggling to balance their domestic duties with the pace and level of competition in the tournament. For their part, City ended up in last year's iteration of the 'Group of Death' with Bayern Munich and Napoli, while Dortmund crashed out of a much more winnable group that featured Arsenal, Marseille and Olympiacos. Both sides will have learned from last year's experience (City in particular thanks to their baptism by fire) and both persevered to win their league crowns, fending off fierce,desperate challenges from established rivals. I fully expect each side to show better after a crucial year of development and experience.
This is what we watch football for! What a group this is going to be! I am now even more excited that Luka Modric's arrival was secured because we are going to need every single member of Real Madrid to perform at their highest level to survive this group.
Tell us what you think of the draw.
Be sure to like Managing Madrid on Facebook and stay tuned into all the Madrid-centric chatter on Twitter @managingmadrid. Please check out the Managing Madrid podcast which is also available on iTunes.