Wow. This is what European football is all about. The second of Tuesday night’s Germany v England double header is a mouth-watering clash, pitting Premier League leaders Arsenal against last year’s beaten Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund.
Arsenal have risen to the occasion in a challenging group and are top after two games with a perfect record. Dortmund, meanwhile, are struggling after defeat to group rivals Napoli in their opening game.
In a competitive group, Dortmund’s place in the second round is anything but assured and, having made the final last year, they’ll be desperate to get out the group and go one step further this time.
The proverbial 'Group of Death' looked to threaten Arsenal’s chances of qualifying for the second round, but the Gunners have proved themselves a true class act with their performances over Marseille and Napoli.
At this early stage, the group is still wide open but Arsenal are the early pacesetters and a win over Dortmund on Tuesday night will put them in a very comfortable position. Group F is hotting up, but can Arsenal keep their cool and sail through to the second round?
Both these sides have been dubbed selling clubs in the past but have recently set
out to shed themselves of that label. Arsenal recovered from their opening day defeat to Aston Villa and haven’t lost since as they’ve risen to the top of the tree in the Premier League, while Dortmund are running Bayern Munich close once again in the Bundesliga and have also only lost once in the league. Both are out to prove they’re real contenders and finishing top of the group will go some way to showing that.
Since the addition of Mesut Ozil, Arsenal’s midfield has developed into an incredibly
effective force. His creative genius, along with Aaron Ramsey’s electric start to the season, Jack Wilshere’s excellent control of the game and Mathieu Flamini’s return as the defensive anchor has galvanised Arsenal’s midfield and gives them greater control in games.
They’ve added purpose to all of their possession and, in Olivier Giroud, they could just have a Premier League goal machine in the making.
Talking of goal machines, Dortmund are equipped with four fine forward players who are all chipping in with goals. Robert Lewandowski may be free to leave in January but he’s
already netted nine in all competitions.
Marco Reus is only one goal off that tally while new signings Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have bagged ten goals between them already. They have plenty of firepower and will be out to test the Arsenal defence when the two meet on Tuesday.
Dortmund, like most German sides, pride themselves on a strong academy but also have a knack for discovering hidden gems and turning them into global stars. They lost major starlet Mario Gotze to rivals Bayern in the summer but still have a squad full of talent.
The danger man remains Lewandowski, who proved his pedigree in Europe by becoming the first player to score four goals in a Champions League semi-final as they swept Real Madrid aside on their way to the final last season. He’s a world-class forward and Arsenal’s defence has come under criticism in recent seasons, so he’s likely to be a handful.
Backing the Polish striker is former Monchengladbach attacker Reus, whose
versatility allows him to play any role in the front four. Regardless of where he plays, he always chips in with goals but is most likely to feature on the left of midfield. He’s got pace in his locker and will be looking to use that to his advantage against the ageing Bacary Sagna.
However, the real danger man is new signing Mkhitaryan. Pinched from under the
noses of Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool, the Armenian midfielder provides the link up play for Dortmund and is key to setting up chances. Everything flows through him and he’s out to prove that he’s more than an adequate replacement for Gotze. Arsenal’s midfield has impressed so far but will need to be on top of their game to keep him under control.
In a game like this there should be goals and plenty of them. Arsenal have been at the top of their game and actually look like they could be Premier League contenders this year but Dortmund could be their toughest test to date. Their attacking quartet is one of the deadliest in Europe and Arsenal will need to at their best to contain them.
However, Arsenal have creativity of their own and will have the home crowd at the Emirates Stadium backing them. Arsene Wenger’s faith in youth seems to be paying off and world-class additions like Ozil may finally make them contenders, both domestically and in Europe.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-3 Borussia Dortmund
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