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Group F: Real Madrid go in search of historic Champions League triumph

Sergio Ramos
Real Madrid are bidding to become the first team to retain the Champions League in its current format.

Now that the Champions League draw has been completed, here's a preview for Group F. Who do you think will go through?

Predicted finish

1. Real Madrid
2. Borussia Dortmund
3. Sporting Lisbon
4. Legia Warsaw

Real Madrid

The defending champions and colossus that always sits astride the Champions League, Real will be gunning for their 12th success in the competition, and to be the first team to retain the trophy since the switch in format in 1992. They've been unusually quiet in the transfer market this summer, but that may well be because they already have a pretty stacked squad: Alvaro Morata might make a few more starts up front, but this will largely be the side that Zinedine Zidane guided to success last season. A ticklish draw will at least keep them honest in the group stage, but this is less a football club more a Champions League-winning machine, and success for the second year in a row might be their greatest achievement.

Borussia Dortmund

Another summer, another departure of a key player to a big rival. Mats Hummels was the latest to defect to Bayern Munich, but while they might therefore be concerned about their defence, their forward line looks pretty decent. Marco Reus is joined by Mario Gotze and Andre Schurrle, playing behind Pierre Emerick Aubameyang with the hugely promising Ousmane Dembele waiting in the wings. As curious as it sounds, they probably have a better chance of winning Champions League than they do their domestic competition. At home they face an immovable object in Bayern, who will almost certainly prevail during a long season, but in Europe most things are possible.

Mario Gotze has returned to Borussia Dortmund following an underwhelming spell at Bayern Munich.

Sporting Lisbon

Without domestic success in 14 years, even after poaching Jorge Jesus from Benfica, they haven't had too much luck in Europe either, since making the semifinals of the Europa League in 2012. Sporting have gathered a squad featuring several Premier League outcasts, including Alberto Aquilani, Bryan Ruiz, Sebastian Coates and Joel Campbell.

Legia Warsaw

Poland's champions were pushed all the way by Ireland's Dundalk in the final qualifying round on Tuesday. Down to 10 men, a late goal from Michal Kucharczyk in Warsaw made it secure at 3-1 and eventually returned Legia to the Champions League group stage for the first time since the 1995-96 season. This looks a very high step for them to make.

Game of the group

Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid -- In the wider scheme of things this match might not actually matter too much, as they should both qualify. But this is why we watch the Champions League, two of the finest teams in Europe slugging it out, and the atmosphere at either ground should be sensational.

X factor

Gareth Bale -- Whether Cristiano Ronaldo really is on the wane is open to debate, but if he does slip at all this season then at least Real Madrid have someone already in their ranks to step forward. After such an exhilarating summer with Wales at Euro 2016, Bale has returned to Spain looking sharp and dangerous. This could be his year.

Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.


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