Arsenal have made an impressive start to their Champions League campaign but will face the toughest test of their credentials to date when they host last year’s losing finalists Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday (19:45, live on ITV 1).
The Gunners top Group F on six points after wins away to Marseille and at home to Napoli. Dortmund and Napoli are tied in second on three points, while Marseille prop up the group with no points to their name.
Arsenal warmed up for the visit of Dortmund with a 4-1 home win over Norwich on Saturday, a result that saw them move two points clear at the top of the Premier League table. They played some lovely football and scored four superbly taken goals, with the first, converted by Jack Wilshere, the pick of the bunch.
Saturday’s match was the first time that Mezut Ozil (pictured) had lined up alongside the similarly inventive Santiago Cazorla and the pair immediately formed a promising partnership. With Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey in midfield and Olivier Giroud performing very well up front, Arsenal are a fearsome prospect for any team.
The £42.5 million the club paid to sign Ozil from Real Madrid increasingly looks good business, with the German having been directly involved (scoring or assisting) in seven goals in seven starts in all competitions. He was the architect of Arsenal’s scintillating first half display in their last Champions League game, a comfortable 2-0 home win against Napoli.
Yet while Ozil has clearly excelled since moving to the Emirates, a less glamourous player, signed on a free transfer, has also made a significant impact. There were some that turned their noses up at the re-signing of Mathieu Flamini, but the Frenchman has proved to be just the combative midfielder Arsenal needed. He does the dirty work that allows others to shine.
Flamini had to be substituted after suffering a concussion in the first half on Saturday and depending on its severity, could be out for as long as five days, which would rule him out of Tuesday’s match. If so, he would join Abou Diaby, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain, Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott and Yaya Sanogo on the Arsenal injury list.
Dortmund come into Tuesday’s match on the back of a 1-0 win at home to Hannover on Saturday. They played well in the first half, but were more laboured in the second as the toll of fielding a number of players only recently returned from injury began to show. The three points kept them second in the Bundesliga, one point shy of leaders Bayern Munich.
Dortmund’s Champions League campaign got off to a disastrous start when goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller and coach Jurgen Klopp were both dismissed in the first half of their opening day 2-1 defeat away to Napoli. They recovered to record a convincing 3-0 win at home to Marseille on the second match day, with Robert Lewandowski scoring twice.
Lewandowski was Dortmund’s top scorer in their run to last year’s final, but will become the latest high-profile player to leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season. Dortmund received €37 million from Mario Gotze’s summer move to Bayern and have, as in previous years, reinvested the money to bolster their squad.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (three goals, one assist) has stepped into the shoes of Gotze (and Shinji Kagawa before him), while the lightning quick Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (five goals, one assist) has hit the ground running. If he can improve the accuracy of his finishing, the Gabon international looks a decent long-term bet to replace Lewandowski.
Dortmund have played some excellent, swift attacking football in the early part of the season and look well placed to challenge domestically and in Europe. The fitness of his squad will be the only concern for Klopp, who started the recovering Marco Reus, Nuri Sahin and Sven Bender on Saturday.
Weidenfeller will return on Tuesday after missing the win over Marseille through suspension, while Marcel Schmelzer is in contention to start after making the bench against Hannover. The match is likely to come too soon for Ilkay Gundogan (spine) and Sebastian Kehl (ankle), while Lukasz Piszczek will be out of action until February 2014 with a hip injury.
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund Betting Tips Verdict
These two sides met in the group stage of the 2011/12 Champions League, with Arsenal winning 2-1 at the Emirates thanks to a double from Robin Van Persie. The Gunners lost both of their home matches against German opposition in last year’s competition.
It is Arsenal who have the slight edge coming into Tuesday’s match due to the better physical condition of their preferred starting 11. Dortmund will clearly pose a significant threat, especially on the break against Arsenal’s less than rapid defence, but we believe the Gunners will continue their impressive early season form with a narrow victory.
- Back Arsenal to win @ 7/5 with BetVictor, SkyBet or William Hill.
- Arsenal having scored in each and every one of their 13 matches in all competitions this season, while Dortmund have only failed to score in one of their 14. Back both teams to score @ 8/15 with BetVictor or Ladbrokes.