Arsenal’s fairytale start to the season could get a whole lot better against Borussia Dortmund.
Arsene Wenger’s side—who currently sit atop the Premier League—are playing some of the club’s best football in years. As summarised by Jack Wilshere’s terrific team goal in the 4-1 Premier League win over Norwich, the Gunners are on song and fearless.
Juergen Klopp will know this. Dortmund cannot afford to slip up after losing their opening Champions League fixture to Napoli and travel to the Emirates needing a huge performance.
Arsenal Team News
Although Aaron Ramsey came off the bench to net yet another goal against Norwich, he did so at the expense of Mathieu Flamini, who exited the field with concussion. The French midfielder will miss the game as he recovers from the knock, as confirmed by John Cross of the Mirror.
Theo Walcott’s injury problems appear to have worsened, also reported by Cross. The English winger is now expected to miss Arsenal’s next three games, revealed by Wenger in the aforementioned report:
He had a setback. He had to stop, to jog again, I don’t think we will see him against Dortmund, nor Crystal Palace nor Chelsea.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby continue to suffer with long-term injuries, while Lukas Podolski is currently recovering from a hamstring injury that was expected to keep him out for 10 weeks at the end of August, per BBC Sport.
Yaya Sanogo is also unlikely to appear since returning from September's international duty with a back injury, as reported by The Independent.
Borussia Dortmund Team News
Injury problems have played a major role in Dortmund's early-season struggle for momentum, as confirmed by club captain Sebastian Kehl before the team's recent clash with Hannover, reported by Goal:
The atmosphere in the dressing room is not at its best at the moment. It's true that we have to get fit again before the difficult weeks ahead of us. Everyone is trying their hardest.
Marco Reus, Nuri Sahin and Sven Bender all played in the 1-0 Bundesliga win after shaking off recent problems.
Marcel Schmelzer suffered a torn hamstring at the end of September and could only manage a place on the bench against Hannover, per Goal. The German international could be called back into Klopp's lineup to face the Gunners.
Ilkay Gundogan remains on the sidelines and hasn't played since Dortmund's 4-0 thrashing of Augsburg, per WhoScored. His back injury, as reported by Sky Sports, continues to throw up a major problem in Klopp's midfield.
Lukasz Piszczek will certainly miss the tie and is likely to be on the recovery table for another two months after undergoing a successful hip operation in July, per the Bundesliga's official site.
Bacary Sagna vs. Marco Reus
Marco Reus played frighteningly well during last season's Champions League trip to Manchester City. The German star has the pace and technical ability to worry any team in the world and will be key to Dortmund's counterattacking moves against Arsenal.
Both teams can dominate possession, but it's the effectiveness of either side's explosive players that will make the difference. Dortmund boast lightening pace with Reus playing alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but it's the German's clinical finishing ability that should worry Wenger most.
Bacary Sagna must play a disciplined game. The French full-back has enjoyed bombing down the wing this season, but against Reus he must prioritise defensive duties. Should he manage to do so, Reus will be put on the back foot and tasked with offering his own team defensive support when Sagna does manage to venture forward.
Mesut Ozil vs. Sven Bender/Nuri Sahin
Mesut Ozil is not the type of player who can be diminished via one player's man-marking, so it's Sven Bender and Nuri Sahin who must collectively halt the Arsenal maestro.
Wenger's newly transferred German will float between the midfield and attacking lines in order to retain and progress possession. Having one opponent follow his every move will only create major space for the home side to exploit, so Klopp must be clever when deploying two defensive midfielders.
Both Bender and Sahin must be alert in order to stop Ozil from dictating. If they can halt the former Real Madrid star's natural sense of control, Olivier Giroud will face a lack of service up top and the Gunners may struggle to gain rhythm.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Borussia Dortmund