Arsenal – Borussia Dortmund (Champions League)
Champion’s League is back this Tuesday and with a clash of contenders, no less. The Premier League’s leader takes on last years Champion’s runners-up. Arsenal will be hopping to maintain their perfect score in Group F and Dortmund needs to make a stand in it.
This is probably the Arsenal team playing the best football in many a year. They are in form and exude confidence. When the cameras close on Mesut Ozil, during the games, he’s often smiling and the same applies to his team-mates. And why shouldn’t they? They are on top of the English league, coming straight from a unequivocal 4-1 win over Norwich. They also count for winners all the four matches they had in the 2013/2014 Champions League. First the Gunners passed Fenerbahce on a 5-0 aggregate. Recently, in group stage Arsenal scored an away success in Marseille (1-2) and a home one against Napoli (2-0).
The Gunners are in group stage for the 16th consecutive season. Even though they reached the quarter-finals (4 times), a semi and a final they were never victorious. In 2006 they were defeated by Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona, or should one say Ronaldinho Gaúcho’s?
Wenger may take advantage of Santi Cazorla’s return to fitness. Theo Walcott, Abou Diaby, Lucas Podolsky and Oxlade-Chamberlain are long-term absentees. Mathieu Flamini suffered a head clash with Alex Tettey last weekend that resulted in double vision episodes and is in doubt.
Probable lineup: Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal – Arteta, Wilshire – Ramsey, Ozil, Cazorla – Giroud.
Borussia Dortmund returns on Tuesday to the city where they lost last years Champions League final, and they will do it without Jurgen Klopp on the touchline. This is a different team than the one we have seen last season. Maria Gotze left for rival Bayern Munich but Henrikh Mkhitaryan is filling in his shoes just fine. Dortmund paid 27.5 million Euros to Shaktar to secure his services and he is starting to pay off. Jurgen Klopp was able to keep striker Robert Lewandowsky and even signed Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang to join him. Borussia Dortmund is in their 9th UEFA Champions League campaign. They already won the 1997 edition over Juventus (3-1) and two UEFA Cup’s, in 1993 and 2002. They also made into the final last season and were defeated by Bayern (2-1). This year, in the Group stage, Dortmund went down in Napoli (2-1) before a 3-0 triumph over Marseille on the second matchday. In this contenders group dropping points is dangerous. And with Arsenal taking the fast track the other candidates must rise or they will definitely fall.
Jurgen Klopp’s side his having an impressive start in the Bundesliga – 2nd, with 22 points in 9 fixtures – with a 2.5 goals average game. Even more so if you consider they have been having a host of injuries. Lucas Piszczek and Ikay Gundogan remain long-term casualties. Marcel Schmelzer and Sebastian Kehl haven’s played since September. Sven Bender (groin) and Jonas Hofman (knee) are in doubt. Marco Reus should be fit to line-up. Goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller is back after serving a game of suspension.
Probable lineup: Roman Weidenfeller – Kevin Grosskreutz, Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels, Marcel Shmelzer – Steve Bender, Nuri Sahin, Aubameyang, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marco Reus – Robert Lewandowski.
Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund clash last year around the same time. For the first round they shared a 1-1 draw in Germany and then Robbie van Persie nailed a 2-1 win for the Gunners. Before that they met in the 2002/2003 Champions edition and the English team also came out on top, lost 2-1 in Dortmund and recuperated with a 2-0 at home.
This is probably the Arsenal team playing the best football in many a year. Borussia has been through some changes and is still adapting but they are team playing in one of the most competitive leagues in the world. Plus, they really need to conquer points, and they are German, so they don’t leave anything to chance. This will be THE game to watch and to appreciate. High level football, highly driven squads, and hopefully a Champions night to remember.