The Champions League makes a welcome return on Tuesday evening and the first matchday of the group stage features a number of mouth-watering contests.
One comes at the Westfalenstadion where Bundesliga title hopefuls Borussia Dortmund take on the reigning champions of Spain Barcelona.
Both teams are stuffed with world class talents and we have combined them into an XI that would be pretty difficult to beat.
Dortmund usually favour a 4-2-3-1 formation and Barcelona go with 4-3-3 so we’ve opted for an attack-minded 4-1-2-3 system to try and bring out the best of the two teams, even if some players are slightly out of position.
Borussia Dortmund’s team pictured in training ahead of their showdown with Barcelona
Lionel Messi on the ball during training as Barcelona prepare to open their European campaign
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (Barcelona)
There isn’t a great deal to choose between Barcelona’s Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and Dortmund’s Roman Burki on the evidence of early season form.
But German keeper Ter Stegen has considerably the greater experience in the Champions League and is a former winner of the competition from 2015.
Both will be far from satisfied with early season displays – Barcelona’s leaky back line has shipped seven goals in their opening four La Liga fixtures, while Dortmund have kept just one clean sheet in their first four.
For Ter Stegen, who has been in a war of words with his rival for the Germany No 1 shirt Manuel Neuer this week, a good display in his homeland would come at just the right time.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen makes himself big to make a save in Barcelona’s win over Valencia
Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund)
One player especially motivated to beat Barcelona on Tuesday night is Moroccan right-back Hakimi, who is on loan from their Clasico rivals Real Madrid.
Hakimi established himself as Dortmund’s first-choice in the position last season and would have played more but for a metatarsal fracture that curtailed his season.
He has been deployed at both left and right-back by manager Lucien Favre this season and looked comfortable in both, scoring against Cologne and supplying an assist for Paco Alcacer against Bayer Leverkusen last weekend.
In Dortmund’s 4-0 win over Atletico Madrid in last season’s group stage, Hakimi set up three goals and will hope to do likewise against another of Real’s foes.
Achraf Hakimi uses his strength to hold off Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey last weekend
Gerard Pique (Barcelona)
With over 100 appearances under his belt in the Champions League, there are few more experienced defenders out there in European football.
At 32, Pique, a three-time winner of the competition, has seen everything and will need every bit of his nous to keep Dortmund’s exciting attack at arm’s length.
Following Barcelona’s humblings at the hands of Roma and Liverpool in this competition in the past two seasons, Pique will be determined to make amends.
Barcelona’s vastly experienced centre-back Gerard Pique will want a fourth European title
Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)
Another defender with vast experience of the Champions League, Hummels will hope to lead Dortmund to the business end of the competition during his second spell with the club.
He was part of the team that lost the 2013 final to Bayern Munich, the team he subsequently re-joined to win three consecutive Bundesliga titles without cracking the Champions League.
Now re-establishing himself back at the Westfalenstadion after a £33million summer move and trying to form a solid partnership with Manuel Akanji, Hummels will need to be at his best here against Messi and Co.
Mats Hummels heads the ball clear during one of his first games back at Borussia Dortmund
BORUSSIA DORTMUND vs BARCELONA
Champions League Group F
Tuesday at 8pm UK time
Live on BT Sport ESPN
Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
Still one of the world’s most highly-regarded left-backs at the age of 30, Alba apparently continues to get better and better as the years roll by.
He has contributed 28 assists for Barcelona since the beginning of the 2017-18 season, which is more than his previous four seasons combined.
Last season’s assist tally of 17 included three in one match against Tottenham in the group stage as he tore the Spurs defence to shreds.
His creativity could prove key here if he’s able to get in behind a Dortmund team that like to attack down the flanks.
Jordi Alba has become one of Barcelona’s chief creative forces in the past couple of seasons
Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund)
In such an attack-minded side, the midfield ballast would be provided by Dortmund’s all-action Witsel as opposed to Barcelona’s passer Frenkie de Jong.
He gets the nod over Sergio Busquets for the defensive midfield role because he’s been involved more in the early part of the season and has looked sharp.
The Belgian addressed a weakness in the Dortmund side when he arrived at the start of last season, with his energy and combative nature firming up their midfield.
He is content to let those ahead of him grab the headlines but Dortmund miss him when he’s not there. Their only loss this season was the only game Witsel has missed.
Axel Witsel’s influence in the Borussia Dortmund midfield isn’t difficult to see
Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)
A Dortmund player who genuinely wouldn’t look out of place in the greatest of Barcelona sides on current form.
The 19-year-old Englishman is one of the most exciting young talents in world football and looks destined to leave a considerable mark on this season’s Champions League.
With three goals and six assists for Dortmund already this season, Sancho has just continued where he left off during a brilliant 2018-19 season.
His lightning speed, trickery and assured finishing will mean he’ll be at the heart of Barcelona’s defensive team talks ahead of this one.
It’s tricky to know where exactly to position Sancho in this formation but playing as an overlapping right winger to Messi sounds pretty exciting.
Dortmund’s young English winger Jadon Sancho has been in flying form this season
Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund)
Reus is someone who always seems to deliver something special on the big Champions League nights, with Real Madrid one of the teams who always seem to fall victim to his class.
The playmaker was outstanding in Dortmund’s 4-0 rout of Bayer Leverkusen at the weekend and seems to have entered top form just in time for this Champions League showdown.
He would be the one to unpick the Barcelona defence and send the wide men scampering away into space in this line-up.
As captain, his organisational skills and calmness during spells of pressure will be absolutely critical against Barca.
Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus always performs against the big teams in Europe
Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Barcelona received an enormous boost on Monday when it was confirmed that their talisman Messi would be fit and available for the trip to Germany following his calf injury.
The Argentine missed the opening four matches of the season and hasn’t played since the Copa America in July but has regained match fitness just in time for the Champions League.
Messi’s qualities don’t exactly need much elaboration – we all know what he can produce and that he can win matches like this by himself.
He has produced time after time in the Champions League and, following Barcelona’s heartache of the past two seasons, he’ll feel he has another European triumph in him.
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona against Liverpool in last season’s semi-final, first leg
Paco Alcacer (Borussia Dortmund)
It’s a case of beware the curse of the ex for Barcelona as they try and keep their former striker Alcacer at bay on Tuesday night.
The Spain forward departed the Nou Camp earlier this year in acrimonious circumstances and only this week had a blast at the club’s hierarchy for treating him badly.
But this season he’s let his performances speak louder than words, with goals in every Dortmund game he’s played so far and seven in six games so far.
Alcacer is in deadly form and gets the centre forward spot ahead of Luis Suarez.
Dortmund’s Spanish striker Paco Alcacer has been in outstanding form so far this season
Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona)
The French forward wins a place because of the bright start he’s made to life at Barcelona and also the fact he can play on the left-side of a forward three.
Griezmann is still adjusting to life at the Nou Camp but paid back the first instalment of his €120million transfer fee from Atletico Madrid with two goals against Real Betis last month.
He also boasts a very good scoring record in European competition with Atletico, including 22 in the Champions League, and will hope to open his account for Barca on Tuesday night.
Antoine Griezmann celebrates scoring for Barcelona in last month’s win over Real Betis
HOW OUR COMBINED BORUSSIA DORTMUND AND BARCELONA TEAM COULD LINE UP