Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund | Wednesday 26 November | Emirates Stadium | 21:45
One gets the impression that these two sets of players must be sick of the sight of one another. This is the third time in four years that Arsenal and Dortmund have been drawn in the group stages together, leading to feelings of familiarity almost unique to this format of the competition. Arsenal’s defeat at the hands of historical nemesis Manchester United has led to growing consternation in the footballing intelligentsia regarding Wenger’s ability to produce winning football. Jurgen Klopp’s side has experienced an even worse domestic campaign that stands in absurd juxtaposition to their serene European performances. The evidence suggests that this match should provide both exhilarating action and an interesting dichotomy of the states of both English and German football.
To Win (90mins)
Borussia Dortmund 19/10
Needing only a point to qualify, Wenger’s side will likely be left contemplative with another second-placed finish the likely scenario this year. Olivier Giroud’s goal scoring comeback has been somewhat marred by the almost incongruous news that he will be unavailable for Wednesday’s encounter. Apparently Arsene Wenger failed to submit the player as part of the original squad, a technical oversight that has not done much to enamour Mr Wenger’s growing detractors. They will also be without the services of the injured Wojciech Szczesny and Jack Wilshere. With David Ospina also injured, it leaves third-choice ‘keeper Martinez with the dubious honours of trying to contain the free-flowing German unit.
Mikel Arteta was excellent in Sunday’s fixture against United, but one wonders how he will fare against the lightning counterattacks of Borussia Dortmund. Alexis Sanchez is obviously a key man for the Gunners as his breathless enthusiasm propels the side forward at every moment. Danny Welbeck will partner him up front while Oxlade-Chamberlain will likely cover for Wilshere in the middle of the park. Flamini may have been drafted in away from home but I expect Wenger to persist with the occasionally frustrating Cazorla at the Emirates. Arsenal will need a fast start if they wish to exorcise the memories of their defeat in Dortmund, where the 2-0 scoreline did not adequately do justice to the German’s supremacy.
Mkhitaryan was devastating when the teams met last and Jurgen Klopp will be looking for another hungry display from the midfielder. Gundogan should continue to deputise for the injured Bender, while Shinji Kagawa continues to rehabilitate his career in the aftermath of a disappointing spell at Manchester United. Perhaps it’s a question of motivation - Dortmund won the Bundesliga twice under the tutelage of Klopp - but the schizophrenically impressive nature of their European form will come under major pressure without the talismanic figure of Reus.
VERDICT: Over 2.5 Goals 13/20
At odds of 13/20 for more than 2.5 goals scored in the game, this clash of defensively sound yet dangerous sides should present ample opportunity for a goal fest, especially considering the manner in which both sides are conceding in their domestic league. Picking a winner is difficult, but I expect a goals come Wednesday at the Emirates.