November 26, 19-45 BST
The Emirates Stadium, London
On Wednesday night, two teams whose respective league campaigns have been shambolic will look towards the respite of the Champions League and the respite it offers. Both Arsenal and Dortmund have had nightmare league starts, and after only 12 games, both teams seem to be out of title contention in their countries. That presents the Champions League as their go to tournament for winning some silverware.
For both teams and managers, the Champions League is a sort of Holy Grail, with coming close to winning it but only having to end up being satisfied as the runners up. Whether that happens, and if either team will do a Chelsea, remains to be seen.
Team News and Tactics
After the horror story that has been their league campaign this season so far, with their worst points’ accumulation after 12 games in over 30 years, Arsenal would be glad to get back to playing in the Champions League again, even if it is against Borussia Dortmund. Despite doing their damndest to throw away the game against Anderlecht, they did come away with a point, giving them the comfort of knowing that Arsenal just need one point in their 2 remaining games to qualify for the knockout rounds for a 15th consecutive time.
Therefore, Arsene Wenger could very well go with a defensive minded setup, intent on getting a point and arresting the team’s slide rather than trying to go toe to toe with Klopp’s team. For once, Wenger might take the lessons of March 2013 and decide a safety first approach is what his team needs.
News has been filtering in that Jack Wilshere could be out for atleast 2 months, meaning he would not be available for this game. Wojciech Szczesny is also not fit for the game so it will be another outing for Damien Martinez between the goal posts. While Olivier Giroud is certainly fit, he would not be eligible to play because Arsenal did not include him in the squad for the group stages because he wasn’t scheduled to return until after the group stages. With defending in mind, it is likely that Arsenal will go with a midfield of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini, with the rest picking themselves automatically.
Predicted Line Up: Martinez; Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs; Ramsey, Arteta; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez, Cazorla; Welbeck
For Dortmund to be languishing in the relegation zone is unthinkable, at least if the form of the last few years is anything to go by. Klopp has certainly raised the profile of the team, with the expectations set at a new high. But it is the unpredictability of the German league that is what makes it so fascinating. Barring Bayern Munich, one can’t really say that there are two or three teams that will always dominate. It wasn’t too long ago that Wolfsburg had won the title. Then they dropped down the table for a few years and now are back again in the top 4. It shows how you can’t take things for granted in this league.
Even then, for a team that was in the finals of the Champions League just a couple of seasons ago, it is certainly weird to see them in a relegation battle, even if it is a little too early in the season. However, it is almost sure that Dortmund won’t be able to get back into the top 4 positions, unless they go on a run of form where they are unbeatable. However, if last weekend’s game is anything to go by, it doesn’t seem like it will happen. Therefore, winning the Champions League is their best shot at staying in Europe, however outlandish it may sound.
The weekend’s game gave another shock to Klopp, with Marco Reus being stretchered off, and he won’t be available for 2 months. He joins a line of important players for the club that are out due to injury, including Hummels, Bender and Sahin.
Predicted Line Up: Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Subotic, Ginter, Durm; Gundogan, Kehl; Mkhitaryan, Kagawa, Jojic; Aubameyang
Arsenal have qualified for the knockout rounds for 14 consecutive years, and if they can get one more point, they will make it 15 in a row.
Of the last 6 away games in the Champions League, Dortmund have won 5 and lost only one.
Both teams have faced each other regularly in the group stages in the last 4 years, and the last 3 games at the Emirates between the two teams have ended in a 2-1 scoreline.
With both teams knowing that their positions are more or less confirmed in the group, they might not go at it with the same intensity, and would be more interested in keeping a clean sheet. But the way things are going, it might well end up as a 1-1 draw, with neither defence holding out.
Predicted Score: Arsenal 1-1 Borussia Dortmund