A clash between two clubs from the opposite end of the spectrum is always fascinating to watch. That will be the case in Matchday 8 of the UEFA Champions League when the club of the people, Borussia Dortmund tangle with the corporate elitist side that is Arsenal. This is also a vital match in Group F as both teams are tied with 6 points along with Napoli. A win by either side could very well determine top spot in the Group.
These two sides met a fortnight ago in north London, with Dortmund emerging with a massive 2-1 result. Expect the intensity to be raised even higher with the scene shifting to one of the best atmospheres in all of sport, Signal Park.
Dortmund are one of the most attractive teams to watch in all of football. Manager Jurgen Klopp has made Die Schwarzgelben a flowing, eye-catching club that pleases many an observer. Klopp favours a 4-2-3-1 formation that can attack from all sides of the pitch.
Robert Lewandowski will be the lone striker up front. The Polish International is one of the premier strikers on the planet, as his 13 goals in all competitions will attest. Over the weekend, Lewandowski netted a hat-trick in Dortmund’s 6-1 thrashing of Stuttgart. His size and strength is a challenge to defend and the back four of Arsenal will have its hands full.
The brilliant Marco Reus is the talismanic figure in the midfield. A sublime creator who provides wonderful service, Reus is vital cog in the Dortmund engine. Like a Mercedes, Reus is efficient and a joy to watch. Armenian International Henrikh Mkhitaryan is expected to start in the central midfield while Gabon International Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is expected to be penciled in along the right flank. Polish International Jakub Blaszczkowski could also see time on the pitch, either as a starter or a substitute. Dortmund would love to have Ilkay Gundogan in the lineup, but a back injury has kept the German star sidelined since August.
Sven Bender and Nuri Sahin are expected to be the holding midfielders. Bender is an aggressive tackler who isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty. Sahin, the Turkish International, is more creative who is responsible and positionally sound. Sebastian Kehl out of the lineup due to an ankle knock, which leaves some doubt in terms of options for Dortmund in case they need substitutions.
The back four will suffer a major blow as Mats Hummels will most likely not play, after suffering a thigh injury over the weekend. Kevin Grosskreutz will most likely move to the back four being joined with Greek International Sokratis, Serbian International Neven Subotic and the returning Marcel Schmelzer. Erik Durm could be a substitute if needed.
Roman Weidenfeller is most likely to be on the team sheet as Dortmund’s keeper. His form has improved as the season has progressed which gives Dortmund more confidence in going forward.
Arsenal have been very impressive in domestic play, topping the English Premier League table 5 points clear of Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham. Manager Arsene Wenger has enjoyed a renaissance this season, after calls for his dismissal at this time a year ago.
Wenger also prefers a 4-2-3-1 formation with Olivier Giroud sitting atop. The French International is a crafty striker with a creative mind. Giroud should have more than 8 goals this season, but he has tallied 3 goals in European play. Lukas Podolski could come on as a substitute, if offence is required.
A major blow for Arsenal will be the absence of Jack Wilshire who is sidelined with an ankle injury. The Gunners however, do have options with Mesut Ozil expected to be the talisman for Arsenal. The German International returns to his native land and will be asked to lead an Arsenal attack that can strike with venom, but is also prone to wasting scoring opportunities. Expect Santi Carzola and Tomas Rosicky to flank Ozil in the middle. Mathieu Flamini is another option at Wenger’s disposal. Injuries to Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have made them unavailable for this fixture.
Despite being used as a holding midfielder, Aaron Ramsey leads the club with 10 goals in all competitions, including 4 in the Champions League. Ramsey isn’t afraid of joining the attack but he must be wary of Dortmund’s attacking style. If Ramsey is caught upfield looking for goal, Arsenal could be left vulnerable. Mikel Arteta is expected to partner up with Ramsey.
The back four have been solid for Arsenal this season. The French duo of Barcary Sagna and Laurent Koscienly have been excellent this season. Belgian International Thomas Vermaelen was outstanding during World Cup qualification, and has carried over that form into his club team. Per Mertesacker just might be the most improved player on Arsenal this season. The Gunners received a boost when Kieran Gibbs was cleared to train with the club, and he could see the pitch for this fixture. Nacho Monreal is another option at the back if Wenger so chooses.
Keeper Wojciech Szczesny has clean sheets in two out of the last three fixtures, and has greatly reduced his penchant for conceding soft goals. The Polish International has found new life this season, which has raised Arsenal’s hopes for either a domestic or European title this season.
This is a salivating fixture with story-lines to spare. Can the club of the people overcome the rigidity of the corporate elite? One major factor could be the crowd. Signal Park is an electrifying, thunderous atmosphere that is very intimidating for visiting clubs. 82,000 supporters will shake the foundation of the ground and how Arsenal handle that could determine the match. There is no denying Arsenal’s form right now, but Dortmund have been either equal or better than the Gunners, and with the psychological advantage going to Dortmund after their result a fortnight ago, the cards seem to be in Dortmund’s favour. Should be a fantastic match. Borussia Dortmund wins 2-1.
You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973