Dortmund Preview: Back to Germany, a Happy Hunting Ground
After a long wait, the UEFA Champions League is back on our screens and every Arsenal fan would focus on tonight’s match against Borussia Dortmund, a team the Gunners know so well after playing against them in two of the last three seasons. In the 2011/12 campaign, Dortmund were shockingly knocked out of a group that contained Arsenal, Olympique Marseille and Olympiakos but last season, the German outfit topped the group with Arsenal dropping to second place while SSC Napoli had to make do with a Europa League berth.
Arsenal crashed out yet again in the First Knockout Phase to Bayern Munich (again) while Dortmund eased past Zenit before losing to the eventual winners, Real Madrid, in the quarterfinals. Arsenal’s away record in the Champions League is enviable with five wins in their last outings on the road but this season, the Gunners are yet to hit the ground running in the Premier League. After winning a nervy curtain raiser against Crystal Palace, the Gunners have drawn their last three games while Dortmund has won four of their last five fixtures.
This will be Arsenal’s fourth visit to Dortmund, having lost, drawn and won on their three previous visits. The Gunners would have to be weary of the threat Henrikh Mkhitaryan would pose and they would be mindful of the Armenian that scored the opening goal in the 2-1 loss to Dortmund at the Emirates. The game clincher was scored by the dangerous Robert Lewandowski but the Pole has moved to FC Bayern. However, he has been replaced by Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos and both forwards have done quite well this season.
The Gunners travel to Germany with a lot of issues to contend with ranging from the meager defensive numbers as well as the niggling problems – such as the defending from set pieces-that continues to be a thorn in Arsenal’s flesh. Wojciech Szczesny was present with Arsene Wenger in his press conference and the goalie has stated that the club is working on set pieces,
“We do realize that set pieces have been a weakness for us recently. We’ve conceded [a couple] of goals already and it’s very early in the season.
“We did very well last season on set pieces and we’re a bit disappointed. We’ve been working on it in training so hopefully we’ll put that right on Tuesday.”
There is also the issue of the zonal marking that has been deliberated on as many fans believe that the club needs to change its approach, especially when defending corners. Per Mertesacker has shared his thoughts on the issue and I’m hoping that he and his teammates would let their actions on the pitch do the talking rather than off it.
To injuries, the home side will be without the services of Jakub Blaszczykowski, Ilkay Gundogan, Oliver Kirch, Nuri Sahinand Marco Reus, who are all still nursing injuries. There are also doubts over Mats Hummels fitness as he recently picked up a muscle strain but he’s odds on to face a late fitness test to ascertain his fate. The Gunners on the other hand, will be without Matt Debuchy and there are more problems at the back as Calum Chambers is suffering from tonsillitis while Nacho Monreal didn’t even travel with the squad due to a back problem.
With Chambers probably unlikely to start, the game could see Hector Bellerin make an introduction to the big stage and one can hope that he’d be able to cope with the rigors of the big time. However, the Gunners can take confidence in their outstanding record in Germany that has seen them win five and draw fire in their last 15 outings.
To team news, David Ospina would have to wait a little bit longer to make his Arsenal debut as I see Szczesny guarding the sticks. The Pole is yet to keep a clean sheet this season but he can take solace in the fact that his last visit to the Signal Iduna Park saw him go back home with a clean sheet in the bag. The defensive line literally picks itself with Kieran Gibbs on the left, the Mertesielny Axis of Awesome in the middle and Bellerin on the right – provided that Chambers isn’t deemed fit enough to start.
In midfield, it would be a relief seeing the captain, Mikel Arteta, return to the fray in place of Mathieu Flamini but many fans would be waiting to see if Mesut Ozil gets the nod ahead of Santi Cazorla despite his shambolic outing last weekend because it’s clearly obvious that Aaron Ramsey and the in-form Jack Wilshere will play through the middle. Alexis Sanchez would maraud the right flank while Danny Welbeck spearheads the attack.
Dortmund: W W L W W (4th in Bundesliga)
Arsenal: W W D D D (7th in Premier League)
Dortmund: Oliver Kirch (thigh), İlkay Gündoğan (back), Nuri Şahin (knee), Marco Reus (ankle), Jakub Błaszczykowski (muscle tear), Mats Hummels (muscle)
Arsenal: Mathieu Debuchy (ankle), Nacho Monreal (back), Yaya Sanogo (hamstring), Serge Gnabry (thigh), Olivier Giroud (ankle)
This would be a nervy encounter and both teams would show a lot of respect to each other. I expect a tight game and it would probably end as a 1-1 draw.
Here’s to Germany, a happy hunting ground.
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