Borussia Dortmund are one of the more puzzling teams in European football. With a convincing unbeaten streak (29 games) in the perennially underrated Bundesliga, Dortmund are not a team to be taken likely.
Just ask Bayern Munich—the team that knocked out Real Madrid in the Champions League last season—who were routinely frustrated by the young Dortmund squad, losing three times (twice in the league, once in the German Cup) last season.
And yet the Bundesliga champions have been woefully underwhelming in European competitions, as they were knocked out of the Champions and Europa league with surprisingly little fight. Be it youth or inexperience, or both, Dortmund are nonetheless a team capable of doing better.
Despite losing Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund appear to still be strong. For one, the majority of the team has remained intact, particularly the defense, which are one of the more impressive back lines in Europe.
Mats Hummels and Lukasz Piszczek has been on a lot of radars in the transfer market, but it appears Dortmund will keep both, along with stalwarts Neven Subotic and Marcel Schmelzer.
And then there's Mario and Marco.
Mario Gotze has been touted for a few years now as the next "something" (Iniesta, Ozil, who knows?), and at only 20, the German international is ready to take the next step up. Despite being injured for nearly half of the season, Dortmund still won the Bundesliga comfortably. Scary.
He'll be complimented by Marco Reus. Reus has been on a tear since the beginning of the 2011-2012 season. At Borussia Monchengladbach, Reus was a top-three scorer in all of Germany. He'll not only try to replace the offensive output of Kagawa, but add further dimensions—particularly on the wings—that should improve Dortmund strongly.
Will this Dortmund team finally make the jump? It's tough to say. They'll be seen unlikely to progress due to the big names of Real Madrid and Manchester City, but that's a bit unfair. Dortmund play a frustrating, flexible style of football, and nobody should be surprised to see them finish second in the group.
Likely Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Weidenfeller; Schmelzer, Subotic, Hummels, Piszczek; Leitner, Gündoagn; Großkreutz, Reus, Gotze; Lewandowski
Star player: Marco Reus