The trip to Dortmund is always an entertaining one one way or another, even if the city isn’t the most salubrious that Germany has to offer. Personally, I’ve my bindle packed with my flight scheduled to leave at the crack of dawn and though it’s a familiar journey now, it’s still an exciting one.
The win in Dortmund last October was undoubtedly one of the high points of last season for Arsenal with Aaron Ramsey’s late winner sealing a smash and grab European away victory that would have had George Graham purring in his Glaswegian burr.
This time, both sides are beset with injury worries. Arsenal won’t struggle to cobble an 18 together with the likes of Joel Campbell and Tomas Rosicky likely to be kicking their heels in their Arsenal suits. But defensive cover is light on the ground.
Dortmund have started strongly despite their own injury woes, with Ramos in particular acclimatising nicely to life in the Ruhr. Klopp suggested that Arsenal are a different team to the one that won in Dortmund last year with the likes of Welbeck and Alexis added to the forward line.
Jack Wilshere told the Arsenal website that the Gunners have focused on winning the ball higher up the pitch this season to create chances and maybe the readoption of the ‘high press’ explains why Mesut Ozil has started games from the left.
It’s bound to be another fascinating encounter and could be incredibly important in determining who qualifies and maybe even who tops this group.
Arsene Wenger insists Arsenal are not too stretched despite injuries to key defenders, however, he insisted that his team could not afford anymore depletions to the back line.
‘Monreal didn’t travel,’ Wenger told a press conference ahead of Tuesday’s group stage meeting at the Westfalenstadion. ‘And we have a little problem with Chambers but he should be alright.
‘In defence we are in a position now when we do not want more [injuries].
‘Hopefully we will have good news about his [Debuchy’s] scan today. But we have Calum Chambers who can play in different positions, Monreal can play at centre back and Hector Bellerin who is now ready to play.’
Meanwhile, Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp highlighted the threat of Arsenal’s two most recent forward signings and praised the signings of Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez
The Dortmund manager believes Arsenal have added even more pace to an already fast attack and looks forward to going up against them despite their lack of numbers.
Klopp admits that he is getting to know the Arsenal side very well having been drawn against the Premier League club in three of the past four Champions League campaigns, although he has not faced either Galatasaray or Anderlecht.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, Klopp admitted that he is concerned heading into the game with the squad`s numerous injuries, which has had a subsequent impact on their preparations for the season having seen depleted numbers in training and the recent international break acting as a disruption.
“This group is a good mixture of old and new faces,” Klopp said on the draw Dortmund were handed. “We certainly know Arsenal better than the other sides, after all, we play against them all the time! On the other hand, I`ve not yet come up against Galatasaray or Anderlecht as a coach. So that will be very interesting.
“Facing the Gunners first off is a tough proposition, especially considering the injury problems we have at the moment and the fact we haven`t been able to train together very often. But we never complain and are looking forward to tackling the challenge tomorrow. Getting through the group stage is one of our main aims for the season.
“You are right about the incredible injury woes we suffered [last season]. And there has been no real let-up as we are without players like Nuri Sahin, Oliver Kirch, Ji [Dong-won], Ilkay Gundogan, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Marco Reus at the moment.
“But I still felt we had a successful season last season, as we achieved everything we set out to do. And our goals for the 2014-15 season are similar, namely to progress from our Champions League group, achieve direct qualification for next year`s Champions League and, if possible, reach the German Cup Final in Berlin again.”
Borussia Dortmund Team News:
Dortmund have a host of injuries for the visit of Arsenal with Nuri Sahin, Oliver Kirch, Ji Dong Won, Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Kuba and Mat Hummels are all absent, whilst Shinji Kagawa and Milos Jojic are doubtful. Marcel Schmelzer should return.
Borussia Dortmund (from): Weidenfeller, Subotic, Kehl, Kagawa, Immobile, Mkhitaryan, Jojic, Aubemeyang, Großkreutz, Ramos, Langarak, Papastathopoulos, Piszczek, Ginter, Schmelzer, Durm, Bonmann.
Player to watch: Adrian Ramos
Filling Robert Lewandowski’s boots was a big ask but the Colombian has taken to the task pretty nicely so far, immediately slotting into Borussia’s dynamic forward line.
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal face a defensive shortage, with Mathieu Debuchy (ankle) out for at least six weeks. Nacho Monreal hasn’t travelled due to a back injury and Calum Chambers is rated as 50-50 due to tonsilitis.
Olivier Giroud (ankle), Theo Walcott (knee), Yaya Sanogo (hamstring) are out and Mathieu Flamini is struggling with a thigh injury.
Arsenal (from): Szczesny, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Rosicky, Arteta, Podolski, Wilshere, Ozil, Ospina, Chamberlain, Ramsey, Alexis, Monreal, S.Cazorla, Flamini, Chambers, Welbeck, Campbell, Bellerin, Hayden.
Player to watch: Wojciech Szczesny
Szczesny is under significant scrutiny now that David Ospina is fit Szczesny’s distribution was questionable on Saturday and, for my money, he made a bad choice immediately before City’s equaliser, trying an inch perfect clip to right back when it was clear that a little regrouping was required.
Szczesny’s distribution attracts more criticism than it should, simply because he happens to be calmer than most of us perched on the edge of our seats in the stadium. But he does need to learn to pick his moments and read the context of the situation a little better.
Match Facts & Stats
This will be Arsenal’s fourth visit to Dortmund, having lost, drawn and won on their three previous visits.
Tomas Rosicky scored the winner for Dortmund against Arsenal in a Champions League group game in November 2002.
Shinji Kagawa scored for Dortmund at the Emirates in November 2011 in a 2-1 defeat for the German side.
Dortmund, winners in 1996/97 and runners-up two years ago, are in their tenth group stage campaign.
Arsenal are the only English side to win in Dortmund.
Arsenal are unbeaten in their last ten matchday one fixtures, winning eight (including the last two) with two draws. Their last opening-day defeat was FC Internazionale Milano’s 3-0 win at Highbury in 2003.
Arsenal’s record against German clubs away from home is W5 D5 L5; overall it is W14 D6 L10.
Olegário Benquerença from Portugal officiates this one.
I think with their injury issues it’s probably as good a time to play Dortmund as any, but it will still be an incredibly challenging game hot on the heels of a slugfest against Manchester City.
I’m going 1-1, goals from Immobile and Welbeck equalising for Arsenal.
Arsenal play away at Aston Villa at 3pm on Saturday. Dortmund are away at Mainz on Saturday.