Meetings between Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund have been a regular fixture in the group stages of the Champions League over the past few seasons, and the two sides will meet for the 6th time in four seasons on Wednesday night with Arsenal only needing a point to progress to the knockout round in second place behind their German opponents who have already confirmed their passage to the next round. Their plight in the respective domestic leagues has been quite unexpected though, with Arsenal suffering their worst start in the league for 32 years and Dortmund lying just two points off the very bottom of the table in the Bundesliga.
The Londoners’ last match was a disappointing 2-1 defeat by Manchester United on Saturday in a game which they dominated and should have probably put it to bed before half time. Dortmund meanwhile blew a two goal lead at newly promoted Paderborn to return with just a point where a win would have pulled them out of the relegation spots. What was possibly more damaging was an ankle ligament injury to Marco Reus that has put him out of action for a couple of months, the forward enduring an injury ravaged season. In the Champions League however, they have a perfect record with four wins out of four and could secure the top spot with a draw which will also see Arsenal on the brink of qualification due to their superior goal difference.
Olivier Giroud made his return from a foot injury and scored a cracking goal against Manchester United at the weekend but the Frenchman wasn’t registered for Arsenal’s Champions League squad because he wasn’t expected to recover before January having being out of action since the end of August.
Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and midfielder Jack Wilshere suffered hip and ankle injuries respectively against Manchester United and are unlikely to feature on Wednesday. With David Ospina also on the sidelines, Damian Martinez will be keeping the nets. Mesut Ozil, Mathieu Debuchy and Laurent Koscielny are also out with long term injuries.
Mats Hummels and Marcos Reus won’t be available for the German side with ankle problems but Sokratis Papastathopoulos could make an astonishing return just two weeks after fracturing his fibula as the joint in his leg wasn’t displaced and he has been able to put his weight on it.
Nuri Sahin, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Oliver Kirch are all returning from long term injuries and won’t be expected to feature much, if at all. Sven Bender missed out on the Paderborn draw because of a hip problem and is a doubt for the midweek game.
Arsenal: 4-2-3-1: Martinez; Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs; Ramsey, Arteta; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanchez, Cazorla; Welbeck
Dortmund: 4-2-3-1: Weidenfeller; Piszczek, Subotic, Ginter, Durm; Bender, Kehl; Mkhitaryan, Kagawa, Jojic; Aubameyang
Arsenal have never failed to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League in the past 14 years.
Arsenal have kept just three clean sheets in their last 15 matches in all competitions.
Borussia Dortmund have conceded just one goal in the four group matches so far.
Borussia Dortmund have won five and lost one of their last six away matches in the Champions League with the loss coming at the Bernabéu last season.
The last three matches between Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund at the Emirates have ended with a 2-1 scoreline.
Last Five Meetings
16 Sep 2014 Borussia Dortmund 2 – 0 Arsenal Champions League
06 Nov 2013 Borussia Dortmund 0 – 1 Arsenal Champions League
22 Oct 2013 Arsenal 1 – 2 Borussia Dortmund Champions League
23 Nov 2011 Arsenal 2 – 1 Borussia Dortmund Champions League
13 Sep 2011 Borussia Dortmund 1 – 1 Arsenal Champions League
Arsenal: Alexis Sanchez
The 25-year-old has been a wonderful signing for Arsene Wenger’s side and before the loss to Manchester United had bagged six goals from just four games in all competitions. He is a dangerous proposition to any side but keeping in mind Dortmund’s injury ravaged defence, the Chilean could have a field day at the Emirates. His pace and skill along with his ability to link up with the midfielders will be a tough task for Dortmund who have till now enjoyed a brilliant start in the continental competition. He’ll be looking to add to his tally of ten goals so far for Arsenal.
He has been flourishing ever since his move to the London club and has been given the license to take on opponents and beat them, something which the whoscored stats show he was denied at Barcelona.
Incidentally, his key passes per game have also gone up and are closer to what they were back in his Udinese days. Dortmund will be required to keep him quiet if they are to get at least a point which they will be more than happy with.
Borussia Dortmund: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
The Gabon international has played the third highest minutes for Dortmund in all competitions and is their highest scorer with 10 goals in all competitions so far. His lightning pace upfront will be quintessential to Dortmund’s plan of sitting back deep and hitting the home side on the counter. He has averaged 4.5 shots per game in the Champions League so far and is fresh from a good display against Paderborn in which he got on the score sheet before providing the second for Marco Reus. He will feed off the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Shinji Kagawa and look to exploit Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal, neither of who are what you will call fleet-footed. Arsenal will have to wary of the immense threat Aubameyang possesses as they already found out in September when he netted the second goal in the reverse fixture.
In what should be another entertaining encounter between the two sides, we could see similar patterns of play that developed in Arsenal’s loss to Manchester United when they took the kept the ball for long periods of play trying to find openings but were eventually done on the break. Even though Dortmund are not the threatening side on the counter like they were a couple of seasons back, they could still hurt the Gunners in what has now become their Achilles’ Heel. However, one would expect the home side to bounce back from their damaging defeat over the weekend and end a run of three games without a win to snatch all three points that will secure knockout football for the 15th consecutive time under Wenger’s reign.