Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Arsenal vs Dortmund: Match Preview

A challenging and potentially exciting fixture awaits us in the form of Arsenal hosting Borussia Dortmund at the Emirates. It is one that I am particularly looking forward to, but maybe not the players. They might be in more pressure than earlier thought of.

It is the most realistic scenario that Arsenal and Dortmund will be the two teams to qualify for the Round of 16, through the Group of Death. And while Arsenal are in superb form, dispatching opponents along the way, one tends to forget that the opponents 'dispatched' were relatively easy, and winning against them was not unexpected. Of course, the win against Napoli was a pleasant surprise, but Dortmund is a team that is arguably a class above them (AND the Spuds).

They faced Real four times last season and defeated them twice, which included a 4-1 thrashing. They condemned one of the best teams in the world to second place in the group stages last year. Madrid could only draw with them in the Santiago Bernabeu (courtesy Ozil) and win through two late goals (meaningless to the aggregate result) in the semi-final return fixture. True, they sold Gotze and are missing Gundogan, Piszczek and Kehl (their captain) for this match, but that doesn't mean that they are severely weakened. Plus, they have a truly electrifying Westfalenstadion, where it is really difficult to get a result.

Which is why a scrappy win here at the Emirates would satisfy me. Dortmund is the sort of team that deserves to be overestimated, and will need serious attention to be given to. If we win this game (coupled with a draw in Marseille vs Napoli), it would put us in pole position for claiming first spot. And after facing Bayern Munich last year due to finishing second, Arsene Wenger would want that first spot as quickly as possible. 

This, for me, won't be a match where the two sides cancel each other out, but it might be one of those fixtures where a magical moment separates the two sides. I must say, I am genuinely confused as to who will nick it. My heart says that Arsenal will win it by a one-goal margin, but my mind says that it will be an entertaining draw. Whatever happens, I'm sure that the fixture will live up to the hype.

Arsene Wenger says of the game: 

"What they give you, the German teams, is they have a desire to play. They play with a positive attitude and they have produced as well many good players recently. It makes it always an open game because they don't hide. We don't hide, so it should be an exciting game on Tuesday."

In team news, Mathieu Flamini will NOT play a part in the game, which will mean that he will join the injury list of Podolski, Ox, Walcott (who suffered a "setback") and Diaby (who suffered another one), albeit for a short time. In defence, we should have the same players involving Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Gibbs.

Of course, with Flamini out, it means that Mikel Arteta will have to partner with Ramsey in the central midfield slots, with Mesut Ozil assuming the attacking midfielder role. Jack should continue playing on the right wing which produced dividends for him in the last game, and Santi Cazorla will start on the left. Let's hope that Ollie hasn't caught up with fatigue, because we need him to produce another good performance against Dortmund.

Spoiler alert: I feel that we are destined to concede against Dortmund, so we'll have to hope that our attack is as devastating as it has been all season, so that we can outscore the opposition. I don't care what everyone babbles about the Mertescielny axis, it has been Flamini who has made the defence more reliable than before. We have played only two Premier League games without him this season, where we shipped in 4 goals. Although Flamini's arrival hasn't got our defence many clean sheets, it has steeled it up and given a certain rough housing to the lineup. Without him, our defence looked a bit nervy against Norwich, which makes it almost a certainty that we will concede tonight.

All in all, this should be a match against two teams in form (Dortmund are on a five match winning streak) where getting 3 points would be an excellent result for whichever side. It would definitely be an entertaining game of football for the neutral fan, but a nervy and an important one for the sides involved. Come on Arsenal. 3 points, Champions league qualification and beautiful football is at stake.

It promises to be a cracker. I can't wait.

P.S. A very happy birthday to Arsene Wenger. I still have my doubts on you, but I sure as hell have a lot of respect for you too.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )