UEFA Champions League: Predicting the Arsenal Starting XI vs. Borussia Dortmund
Arsenal showed no signs of shackles from the international break, extending their impressive form to 10 wins in 12 games and five consecutive English Premier League wins after a two-week layoff. The Gunners now enter their UEFA Champions League Group F encounter with German champions Borussia Dortmund full of confidence.
However, with all due respect, Dortmund are likely to provide a tougher task than Norwich City.
Arsenal have all but secured qualification to the round of 16 with two wins and two draws from the opening four matches of Group F. In what is considered one of the toughest groups of the 2011/2012 UEFA Champions League, Arsene Wenger's men sit atop with eight points whilst French giants Olympique de Marseille are second with seven points. Dortmund have struggled and boast four with Greek champions Olympiacos bottom with three.
A win at the Emirates will conclude the Borussian's chances of advancing whilst the North London giants will have sealed their place to fight with the powerful European giants. A weakened Arsenal managed a 1-1 stalemate with the German giants last time around but enter the clash with form, confidence and an impressive roster.
Nonetheless, Dortmund are capable of playing scintillating attacking football, particularly with teenage sensation Mario Gotze leading the charge. The 19-year-old is a prominent target for Arsene Wenger and will be out to prove his worth against the Gunners. Furthermore, Jurgen Klopp's men have won their last five matches.
Wenger will be well aware of the vitality of three points at the Emirates, and with his side beginning to become a genuine top-four team it is hard to imagine anything but an Arsenal victory.
As always, I predict the Arsenal Starting XI.
Polish youngster Wojciech Szczesny has been in strong form since Day 1 of 2011/2012, and is certain to start against Dortmund. Countryman Lukasz Fabianski will once again deputize, but is set to play against Manchester City in the Carling Cup quarter finals next week.
Veteran Manuel Almunia and Italian youngster Vito Mannone patiently wait until January in order to respectively transfer and take up loan deals.
German giant Per Mertesacker could face demotion from the starting XI following a poor display against Norwich City. Frenchman Laurent Koscielny, who was used as a makeshift right back against the Canaries could move into the centre to partner defensive leader Thomas Vermaelen.
Imposing Swiss Johan Djourou is in line to replace Mertesacker and take on the right back role, whilst Brazilian Andre Santos will continue at left back with Kieran Gibbs suffering a hernia, expected to return deep in December.
Teenager Carl Jenkinson has a stress fracture in his back and will not feature whilst teenagers Ignasi Miquel and Nico Yennaris are unlikely to make the squad. The same can be said for veteran Sebastien Squillaci.
Cameroon international Alexandre Song will as always take on the defensive midfield duties. Czech play maker Tomas Rosicky is expected to start ahead of Mikel Arteta to face his old club, whilst Wales captain Aaron Ramsey will partner him as the main playmakers.
Arteta should make the bench beside Israeli captain Yossi Benayoun and Ghanain teenager Emmanuel Frimpong. This ensures French youngster Francis Coquelin is unlikely to make the squad despite his promise and Abou Diaby has returned to full fitness but will not feature until the Carling Cup round next week.
Teenage sensation Jack Wilshere continues his lengthy layoff from ankle surgery, but is expected to return in February.
Arsenal captain Robin van Persie took his 2011 Premier League total to 30 following two goals against Norwich City, and the Dutchman will of course be the lone striker for the Gunners, leading from the front. England international Theo Walcott is likely to start on the right; however, Russian dynamo Andrei Arshavin may start ahead of Gervinho on the left.
Imposing Moroccan Marouane Chamakh is fully fit and will make the substitutes bench alongside Gervinho. However, South Korean captain Chu Young-Park is likely to miss out. The same is said for exciting teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain whilst Ryo Miyaichi has an ankle injury.
Who Will Conquer?
With seven roles on Wenger's bench, Fabianski is set to be the emergency keeper with Djourou or Mertesacker the emergency defender. Frimpong, Arteta and Benayoun are the likely impact midfielders whilst Gervinho and Chamakh are the back up attackers.
This is a match which, if won, will seal Arsenal's place in the next round of the UEFA Champions League. Surely the in-form Gunners have it covered.
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