Ok, so first thought: Yikes.
Second, more nuanced thought: It’s not great, but it’s not terrible.
One of the most difficult draws possible. But with Messi missing for a month, and Ernesto Valverde having to juggle an ageing squad, while also integrating younger players, playing Barca in the group stages is much better than playing them later in the tournament.
It’s been a stodgy start to Barca’s season. They’ve shifted between a 4-2-3-1, a 3-4-3, and a 4-3-3. They have the players to adapt, and while switching formations is normal and often over-stated, Valverde has failed to settle on an overall philosophy.
How will they squeeze Messi and Suarez and Greizman and Neymar (?) and Dembele and Malcom into one squad? What about Rakitic and Arthur and de Jong and Busquets and Alena and Vidal (?) and Roberto?
Injuries and suspensions will answer some questions and force the team/staff to adapt — like right now, with Messi, Suarez, and Dembele all out.
It’s a tough draw, but not as intimidating as it once was.
(Unless Messi is fully operational. Then it’s as scary a draw as is physically possible)
Going to the Nou Camp will be a fun reminder of one of the club’s most important and memorable moments.
As pot two draws go, Dortmund set only behind the two Madrid cousins. Dortmund are as pacey and powerful and prolific as ever. They should have won the German title last year — inexperience down the stretch cost them.
Going forward, Dortmund are as intimidating as any of Europe’s elite. They can be sloppy when forced into sustain period’s of build-up play. They’re like a kid who got that first taste of sugar, they just want to get going now now now.
On the break, they can be breath-taking. The wink-wink chemistry between Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho is so destructive as to be unnerving.
Dortmund suffered defensively last season. Their back-four lacked mobility and someone who could confidently step out of the back and initiate play. They’ve looked to address that by re-uniting with former captain and destroyer-of-worlds Matts Hummels. Is Hummels washed or was he an under-appreciated asset? At this stage, nobody knows.
Hummels at his apex was everything Dortmund needs right now — and then some. If they manage to squeeze the last drops out of his career, it will transform them defensively and make them one of the most well-rounded sides in Europe, capable of playing their own, destructive style at home or on the road.
Trips to Prague are fun, so there’s that.
In fact, this may be a big test for Conte’s new culture. Will players try to sneak out and enjoy that infamous Prague nightlife? You know the Icardashians and Ninja would have. What about Big Rom and Little Nico?
(I’m only about 95 percent joking)