Arsenal v Napoli
Group F, Emirates Stadium, London
Since losing at home to Aston Villa on the opening day of the Premier League season Arsenal Fc are on a seven game winning run which has seen them top the domestic league and their UEFA Champions League group. However, their new found confidence will be tested to the hilt when Napoli, who themselves are on a very good run, arrive in North London.
The Gunners will be aware of the fact that if they win this game and the one against Marseille they would almost guarantee themselves a place in the next stage. Therefore, Arsene Wenger would approach this game as a must win so that he can rest some of his stars in the later games of the group stage.
Given the form that the Gunners are in there should be no major changes to the team that beat Swansea over the weekend. Thomas Vermaelen will continue to be nursed back to full match fitness and should expect to find himself on the bench again. The centre midfield should again stay the same with Jack Wilshere & the red hot Aaron Ramsey acting as the pivots around which Mesut Ozil can weave his magic.
This match will also not be short of bite as Gonzalo Higuain and Pepe Reina, who were both Arsenal targets during the summer, have found themselves in Naples. They are both key players for Napoli and could have telling impacts on opposite sides of the field come Matchday 2.
Higuain, who was brought in to replace former favourite Edinson Cavani, has made a seamless transition to Napoli and the Serie A. He has found the back of the net four times in seven appearances for the Naples based side. Jose Callejon, another Real Madrid recruit has also settled in well but the real threat will again come from Napoli’s Slovakian playmaker Marek Hamsik. Rafa Benitez has already compared Hamsik to Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard and it is fair to say that if Napoli are to win at the Emirates then Hamsik will need to be at his best.
This should be a hugely entertaining game but Arsenal should fancy themselves to nick it given their blistering start to this season.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Napoli
Players to watch out for: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal); Marek Hamsik (Napoli)
Borussia Dortmund v Marseille
Group F, Westfalenstadion, Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund were a breath of fresh air in the Champions League last season but they would have realised after their opening day defeat to Napoli that things will not be as easy this time out. Despite the defeat Jurgen Klopp will be confident that his side can make it through this Group of Death but for that to happen Dortmund will have to beat Marseille.
Klopp himself will not be able to influence the match after he was sent off for berating the fourth official following Gonzalo Higuain’s opener. Dortmund will also be without the services of goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller following his dismissal in the same match. The German side also have a long injury list with Ilkay Gundogan, Marcel Schmelzer, Sebastian Kehl and Lukasz Piszczek all facing spells on the sidelines.
Marco Reus will again be the main man and the onus will be on this 24 year old German international to continue to dazzle. He should expect good support from the likes of Jakub Blaszczykowski & summer signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Robert Lewandowski has also started the season with a flurry of goals and would like to let his boots do the talking after media reports indicated that he has already signed a pre contract with Bayern Munich for next season.
Marseille will no doubt be the underdogs for this game but they can draw some comfort from the fact that the last time these two sides met the French side prevailed 3-0 at home and 3-2 away. Elie Baup will also be reminding his troops that if they create the same amount of chances that they did against Arsenal during their opening game than they have a real chance to grab something from this game.
The only major injury concern for Marseille is the toe injury suffered by Andre-Pierre Gignac who was their top scorer last season with 18 goals. Baup’s side will continue to rely on the technical ability of Mathieu Valbuena who memorably scored the winner when these sides last met.
Dortmund should win this one quite comfortably despite their lengthy injury list but if Marseille can get to half time level then they would really start to believe.
Prediction: Borussia Dortmund 3-1 Marseille
Players to watch out for: Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund); Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)