Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Chelsea, Capital One Cup Fourth Round

Emirates Stadium, London
Tuesday, October 29
3:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 GMT

  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Phil Dowd
    • Assistants: Peter Bankes and David Bryan
    • 4th Official: Andre Marriner
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 71 Arsenal wins, 56 Chelsea wins, 52 draws
  • All-Time in the League Cup: 2 Arsenal wins, 3 Chelsea wins
  • Arsenal's Path Here
    • Third Round: 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion (won 4-3 on penalties)
  • Chelsea's Path Here
    • Third Round: 2-0 win at Swindon Town
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-W-D-W-W
  • Chelsea's League Form: L-W-D-W-W-W
  • Weather: Clearing, 11 C / 51 F
Well, Arsenal's 2-0 win over Crystal Palace might not have been as comprehensive as we all might have liked and Mikel Arteta's red card didn't make it any easier to swallow, but in the end, it was a win, and Arsenal are still top of the table.

With Liverpool, Dortmund, and Manchester United on the horizon, Arsenal will switch gears a bit tonight in the League Cup as they play host to a powerful Chelsea team that is rounding into terrifying form themselves. This becomes a pretty odd fixture from an Arsenal perspective: yes, it's a London derby and yes, it is a single elimination cup tie, but it's also the lowest of their priorities going forward, when you look at the daunting list of matches that will follow.

In a sense, Arsenal do have bigger fish to fry, in the league and in Europe. That doesn't mean they shouldn't go for it in this match, however, and a win over Chelsea would do well for the team's building confidence. Ultimately though, this match is not the be-all end-all that the following week might be.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Eisfeld (back,) Zelalem (knee,) Frimpong (match fitness,) Walcott (stomach,) Sanogo (back,) Podolski (hamstring,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Diaby (knee)
Doubts: Flamini (groin,) Gnabry (ankle)
Suspended: Arteta (one match)

A bit fuller injury section above for this match, as I have to include the reserve options that will also miss out, in addition to the already injured first team members. You know who is out from the regulars. You're likely aware Mikel Arteta is suspended for one match after his red card on Saturday. Red cards for last man fouls (though, it's not really clear how Marouane Chamakh had an obvious goal scoring opportunity to Chris Foy) are one match bans and not three, so I never expected Arsenal to appeal; Arteta will be available for Liverpool on Saturday.

Mathieu Flamini picked up a groin injury to go with his concussion on Saturday, so there's no word on how long he might be out. Elsewhere, Jack Wilshere is fine and could get a start, but Serge Gnabry is a doubt after taking a kick to the ankle. Among the younger players, Thomas Eisfeld, Gedion Zelalem, and Emmanuel Frimpong are all unvailable, but Isaac Hayden and Ryo Miyaichi will likely be involved.

Even with the trickiness of Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund, and Manchester United to follow (all in eight days, too,) Arsenal's injury list means there isn't a whole lot of rotation they can afford. It's easy to pick at the back: Thomas Vermaelen should start, as should Carl Jenkinson, Nacho Monreal, and Lukasz Fabianski in goal. But up top, Arsenal don't have a lot of options. All of this means I'm not even going to try to predict the XI.

So, here's to hoping Nicklas Bendtner gets a hat trick.

Chelsea Squad News

Out: van Ginkel (knee)

On the other hand, Chelsea has a squad so deep, especially in midfield, "rotation" means Juan Mata gets to start. There could be starts for players who came off the bench on Sunday: John Obi Mikel, Samuel Eto'o, and Willian. David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta could start at the back; Mark Schwarzer may start in goal to give Petr Cech a break. You have to think that this means an understrength Chelsea squad should still be favored against an understrength Arsenal squad.

Chelsea have only one injury in their first team, with Marco van Ginkel out for the year with a knee injury.

Current Form

Arsenal responded moderately well from their 2-1 loss to Dortmund midweek; they did pick up all three points against Crystal Palace, though they did not make easy work of a team that's languishing at the bottom of the table. That said, Arsenal have still lost just twice this season in 15 matches across all competitions.

Chelsea have also lost just twice this year, in 14 matches across all competitions, though their penalty shootout loss to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Super Cup counts as a draw in this list. The Blues went through a rough patch after the September international break, losing to Everton in the league and Basel in the Champions League in quick succession. Since then, the only blemish on their record is a draw with Spurs. After Sunday's 2-1 win over Manchester City, aided by a Joe Hart howler, Chelsea have won five straight across all competitions.

Match Facts

Chelsea won both matches with Arsenal last season, both by 2-1 scorelines. At the Emirates last September, Chelsea scored twice from set pieces as Laurent Koscielny, out of form at the time, had a nightmare at the back; Gervinho had Arsenal's goal, which had made it 1-1 at the interval. At the Bridge in January, Chelsea scored twice early in the snow to take a commanding lead in the match, but Arsenal showed resolve and finally showed up in the second half. Theo Walcott scored in the 56th minute to make the match interesting, but Arsenal never found an equalizer.

Arsenal and Chelsea have met four times in the League Cup, playing five matches in the process. Arsenal won the first meeting, 2-1 in 1976/77. Chelsea have won the last three ties, most recently 2-1 in the 2007 final, famous for Abou Diaby knocking out John Terry (and the three red cards that came in injury time.) The last time Arsenal and Chelsea met in the League Cup in North London, Alex Manninger was in goal for the Gunners and Chelsea won 5-0 (Manninger didn't lose another game for Arsenal that season, going unbeaten in seven matches, though as the story goes, his confidence was shot.) Manninger had also been in goal when Arsenal and Chelsea met in the League Cup the year prior, which saw Arsenal win at home, but lose the tie on aggregate in the second leg.

The Referee

The referee is Staffordshire-based Phil Dowd. Arsenal fans' memories of Dowd have, in recent years, been clouded by the circumstances of the 4-4 draw in Newcastle on February 5, 2011. Since that match, Arsenal have seen Dowd seven times and have a record of three wins (over Norwich, Aston Villa, and West Ham,) three draws (with Blackburn, Fulham, and Manchester United,) and one loss (1-0 at Manchester City in December of 2011.) The West Ham win and the draws with Fulham and United happened last year; in the 3-3 draw with Fulham, Dowd awarded Arsenal a penalty at the death, which Mikel Arteta did not convert. All things considered, Arsenal do not have a particularly bad track record with Dowd in the middle.

As for Chelsea's record with Dowd, they won all three matches with him last year; they were all clean sheets and they were all at Stamford Bridge: 2-0 over Newcastle, 8-0 over Aston Villa, and 1-0 over Manchester United in the FA Cup. Dowd also worked Chelsea's FA Cup Final win over Liverpool in 2012, meaning Chelsea have won four straight with Dowd in the middle. The Blues' last loss with Dowd came 1-0 at West Bromwich Albion in March of 2012; you may recall that match cost Andre Villas-Boas his job.

Around the Fourth Round
  • Tuesday: Birmingham City v. Stoke City; St. Andrew's, Birmingham
  • Tuesday: Burnley v. West Ham United; Turf Moor, Burnley
  • Tuesday: Leicester City v. Fulham; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Tuesday: Manchester United v. Norwich City; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Wednesday: Newcastle United v. Manchester City; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Wednesday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Hull City; White Hart Lane, London
  • November 6: Sunderland v. Southampton; Stadium of Light, Sunderland

Preview by Numbers: Crystal Palace v. Arsenal

Selhurst Park, London
Saturday, October 26
7:45 a.m. EDT, 12:45 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Chris Foy
    • Assistants: Peter Kirkup and Matthew Wilkes
    • 4th Official: Michael Oliver
  • This Match, Last Time: Palace 1 - 1 Arsenal (November 6, 2004)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 20 Arsenal wins, 3 Palace wins, 10 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-W-W-D-W
  • Palace's League Form: W-L-L-L-L-L
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 16 C / 60 F
Let's lead with the reminder that Arsenal did plenty of good
things on Tuesday night.
Well, the bubble has burst slightly; Arsenal's 12 match unbeaten run came to an end at the hands of Dortmund's lethal late match counter-attack. That aside, Arsenal are still two points clear at the top of the Premier League with a lot of football left to play. 30 games, to be exact.

There are two ways this could go: the Arsenal of years gone by would bounce back with aplomb, while the Arsenal of the last few years would struggle to regain their footing. Mental strength, etc. etc. etc.

Crystal Palace are a struggling side, 19th in the Premier League and now without the manager with which they started the season. It could either be the best time in the fixture list to be playing them (as they are without some direction,) or it could be the worst time to be playing them (rejuvenated by the transition while facing an Arsenal side trying to bounce back from a loss of their own.)

With a run of huge fixtures in the near future, it is paramount that Arsenal get back on the right foot tomorrow.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Walcott (stomach,) Sanogo (back,) Podolski (hamstring,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Diaby (knee)
Doubts: Wilshere (ankle,) Flamini (head)

Jack Wilshere ices his ankle and makes everyone all
nervous and stuff...
In terms of team news, none of the long-term injured will be back for this one. Mathieu Flamini could return to the side, having missed Dortmund midweek with a concussion. Jack Wilshere left Tuesday's game with a knock to the ankle, leaving him questionable for this match. Otherwise, that's about it in terms of news.

That means the big question in terms of Arsenal's starting XI starts with an R and rhymes with flotation. And yes, I did use a rhyming dictionary. With Chelsea to play this week in the League Cup, then Liverpool next weekend, Dortmund in Germany, and Manchester United at Old Trafford before the next international break, there's certainly no time like the present to rest a few guys. Arsene Wenger talked about how some players were physically jaded against the Germans on Tuesday, though to be fair, that is one of Wenger's buzzwords. But you have to think that 19th place Crystal Palace is your one good chance to rest the weary. Of course, if they don't go on to win, then you've got a few more difficult questions to answer...

Predicted XI, with rotation!: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Monreal, Arteta, Flamini, Cazorla, Ozil, Rosicky, Giroud.

That's probably way off base. Three changes to the back four? What am I thinking?! You should all be glad I'm not the manager.

Crystal Palace Squad News

Out: McCarthy (match fitness,) Hunt (ankle,) Murray (knee,) Williams (ankle)

Remember me?
In terms of injuries, Paddy McCarthy has not played since the 2011/12 season with a groin injury; Mile Jedinak has taken over as interim captain in McCarthy's place. Jack Hunt, signed from Huddersfield Town this summer, is out until November with a broken ankle he suffered in training, Glenn Murray is out until December at the earliest after an ACL injury he suffered in May, and Jonathan Williams is out long-term with an ankle injury he picked up on international duty in September.

Palace have been playing a 4-3-3 formation this season, but with Ian Holloway out as manager, one wonders if they'll retain the same style. The Eagles line up with four at the back, three in the central of midfield, and two wingers playing advanced along with the central forward. The personnel playing at these positions, however, has fluctuated. Only three players, goalkeeper Julian Speroni, midfielder Mile Jedinak, and left back Dean Moxey have started all eight games for Palace in the league this season. Among the three forward positions, Jason Puncheon has started six of eight, Marouane Chamakh has started six of eight, and Dwight Gayle has started six of eight. Yannick Bolasie started Monday's match against Fulham on the left wing and very well may retain his place.

Predicted XI: Speroni, Ward, Mariappa, Delaney, Moxey, Jedinak, O'Keefe, Campana, Puncheon, Bolasie, Chamakh.

Current Form

This image pretty much sums up Palace's season to date.
Even though both sides are now coming off losses, you have to say that these teams are on two very different runs at the moment. Arsenal's 2-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night was their first since the season opening match against Aston Villa, snapping their unbeaten run at 12 matches. Surprisingly, the Gunners' two losses this season have both come at the Emirates Stadium, meaning Arsenal remain unbeaten away from home; that streak is currently at 13, dating back to the 2-1 loss at Spurs in March. Arsenal's road fixture list does get trickier after this match, as they'll go to Dortmund and Manchester United inside of a week in early November, then Napoli and Manchester City inside of a week in early December. Things are getting pretty serious now, aren't they?

As for Crystal Palace, they have lost seven of their eight matches in the league this season including five straight, and their only win was against cellar-dwelling Sunderland. That is their only win across all competitions as well, as Palace were booted from the League Cup by League One's Bristol City 2-1 in the second round. The scorelines are getting worse for Palace as well; their four straight league losses have been by scorelines of 2-0, 2-0, 2-0, 3-1, and 4-1. Even their win against Sunderland was a 1-1 draw before a last man foul, red card, and penalty gave Palace the decisive edge. The Eagles held firm and nearly looked like nicking a point in their opening match against Spurs (where they lost 1-0,) but it has been nothing but downhill from there.

Match Facts

Aki Riihilahti celebrates a goal, though this was not against
Arsenal. Do you know how hard it is to find good pictures of
matches from nine years ago?
There isn't that much to say in this section, as there is very little recent history between these two clubs. Arsenal and Crystal Palace have not met since Palace's last year in the top flight, 2004/05. Arsenal won 5-1 at Highbury on Valentine's Day, but the match at Selhurst Park in November ended in a 1-1 draw, with Thierry Henry's opener canceled out by Aki Riihilahti just two minutes later. At the time, Arsenal had won just once in their last five matches. Also, the referee that day was Mike Dean, so I'm sure that was part of it...

Crystal Palace have not beaten Arsenal at Selhurst Park since November 10, 1979, when they beat the Gunners 1-0. Since then, Arsenal have won five and drawn five in South London across all competitions. The last two league meetings at Selhurst Park have ended with both sides splitting the points (prior to the 1-1 in 2004, they drew 0-0 in 1997.)

Arsenal's last league win at Crystal Palace came on February 25, 1995 (I told you there was very little recent history;) the timing of that match is interesting, as it came at the end of the week in which George Graham was sacked. The day of his sacking, Arsenal beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 on a goal from one of Graham's final signings, Chris Kiwomya. Kiwomya then scored twice four days later in Arsenal's 3-0 win over Palace, but never scored again for the Gunners.

The Referee

The referee is Merseyside-based Chris Foy. Arsenal saw Foy four times last season, all of them at the Emirates. Arsenal drew the first, 0-0 with Sunderland in the season opening, and won the next three: 7-3 over Newcastle, 1-0 over Stoke, and 4-1 over Reading. In a bit of a stunning statistic, no Arsenal players were booked by Foy over the four matches.

The last time Foy worked a Crystal Palace match, the Eagles won at Old Trafford. The date was November 30, 2011 and it was the fifth round of the League Cup. Glenn Murray had the 96th minute extra time winner as Palace won 2-1 over Manchester United. They went on to lose in the semifinal to Cardiff City on penalties

Foy only showed two red cards in 31 games last year. One was fairly controversial, when Norwich's goalkeeper Mark Bunn handled outside of the box and denying a goal scoring opportunity. The other was to Eden Hazard for kicking a ball boy. REMEMBER THAT?! Foy did show a red card last weekend while working in the Championship, to Sheffield Wednesday's Jose Semedo for a two-footed challenge. Wednesday filed an appeal but it was rejected by the FA.

Around the League
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Everton; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. West Bromwich Albion; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Stoke City; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Norwich City v. Cardiff City; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday (late): Southampton v. Fulham; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Sunday (early): Sunderland v. Newcastle United; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Sunday (late): Chelsea v. Manchester City; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday (late): Swansea City v. West Ham United; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Sunday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. Hull City; White Hart Lane, London

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Borussia Dortmund, Champions League Matchday 3

Emirates Stadium, London
Tuesday, October 22
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials from Sweden
    • Referee: Jonas Eriksson
    • Assistants: Mathias Klasenius and Daniel Warnmark
    • 4th Official: Daniel Gustavsson
    • Additional Assistants: Stefan Johannesson and Markus Strombergsson
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 2 Arsenal wins, 1 Dortmund win, 1 draw
  • Arsenal's European Form: L-W // W-W-W-W
  • Dortmund's European Form: W-W-L-L // L-W
  • Weather: Light rain clearing, 16 C / 60 F
The 4-1 scoreline might have been a touch flattering based on
the full run of play, but they were beautiful goals, weren't they?
Well, this is a big match, innit?

All of the talk of Arsenal's unbeaten streak has been tempered by the belief that they haven't played many competitors of note yet, aside from their two Champions League group matches and Tottenham before the transfer window closed. And that's true; I've noted that Arsenal's first nine league matches this season are all fixtures they won last year. That would mean they're -4 on points between last year and this year, despite being top of the league by two clear points. Astonishing really, and it goes to show you that the strength of schedule will pick up fast.

Without a doubt, this match is Arsenal's biggest test of the season to date. Borussia Dortmund finished second to Bayern Munich in pretty much everything last season, though they did tear through Europe, winning last year's Group of Death before knocking off Shakhtar Donetsk, Malaga, and Real Madrid. They got off to a better start this season, winning Germany's Super Cup 4-2 over Bayern. They have catapulted into the upper echelon of European teams over the past three or four seasons.

An Arsenal win would give them nine points, keeping them at least three points clear of Napoli and putting them six points clear of Dortmund. But make no mistake, the pressure is all on Arsenal to get that result tonight; if Dortmund come away from the Emirates with three points, Arsenal would suddenly be in a tricky situation.

This match is the first of many, many big ones to come, so let's keep the ball rolling.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Flamini (head,) Walcott (stomach,) Sanogo (back,) Podolski (hamstring,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Diaby (knee)

What do you think Giroud is saying here?
I'll bet it's very French.
Yesterday's big news was that Theo Walcott had a setback and training and is now set to miss another two weeks. Considering Arsene Wenger said on Thursday that Walcott was "two weeks away," I would say that was news before the Norwich game and isn't news now. I think the media just chose to ignore it until they could rock our world with breaking DREADFUL news before the clash with Dortmund.

Meanwhile, Mathieu Flamini is out tonight after his clash of heads with Alexander Tettey on Saturday; Flamini was back in training, but head injuries are tricky business. Arsene Wenger has said he'll adhere to the "five day rule," meaning Flamini should be available for the trip to Crystal Palace this weekend.

That aside, I expect very little in the way of changes; Arsenal looked free flowing and dangerous with the ball during the second half, once Aaron Ramsey settled in off the bench. I'd expect a starting XI tonight similar to that XI from Saturday.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Cazorla, Giroud.

Dortmund Squad News

Out: Kehl (ankle,) Gundogan (spine,) Piszczek (hip/groin)

KLOPP SMASH! Klopp suspended.
Dortmund were without center back Mats Hummels at the weekend; he had been sent off from Dortmund's last league match before the international break, though he is eligible in European competition. Hummels has been out of favor with the German national team as of late, with Per Mertesacker and Jerome Boateng starting most qualifiers in the center of defense. Hummels started last week for Germany against Sweden, though the Germans had already qualified beforehand.

Goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller returns to action after a one match UEFA ban for his Matchday 1 red card against Napoli. Marcel Schmelzer, out with a thigh injury, was fit enough for the bench at the weekend, but was not used. Dortmund must decide whether he is fit to return or whether Erik Durm should continue to deputize at left back. Despite various knocks, Sven Bender, Marco Reus, and Nuri Sahin (remember that transfer saga?!) all started at the weekend; Reus had Dortmund's lone goal from the penalty spot, but came off in the 66th minute. I'd expect all three to start tonight.

In terms of long term injuries, Dortmund are without Sebastien Kehl, who suffered ligament damage to the ankle in training mid-September, Lukasz Piszczesk, who underwent hip and groin surgery over the summer, and Ilkay Gundogan, who has been out since August with compression of the spine.

Manager Jurgen Klopp is banned from the touchline, after his tirade to the fourth official on Matchday 1 in Naples earned him a two match ban. He'll be back for Matchday 4 in Dortmund.

Predicted XI: Weidenfeller, Grosskreutz, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer, Bender, Sahin, Reus, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan, Lewandowski.

Current Form

No caption required.
Arsenal's unbeaten run has been extended to 12 matches after their 4-1 win over Norwich at the weekend; the three goal margin also marks Arsenal's widest victory since the 4-1 win over Wigan Athletic in last season's penultimate game. Arsenal's loss to Aston Villa to open the season is their only loss over their last 24 matches across all competitions, dating back to last March. Arsenal's last 13-match unbeaten streak came in September through November of 2009.

Borussia Dortmund are currently second in the Bundesliga, one point behind Bayern Munich. Dortmund opened the league season with five straight wins before defeat to Napoli in the Champions League came in advance of a 1-1 draw at Nuremberg. After a 5-0 win over Freiburg, Dortmund were defeated 2-0 by Borussia Monchengladbach before the international break. They rebounded with a 1-0 over Hannover at the weekend; Dortmund's goal came from the penalty spot in the fourth minute.

This is Dortmund's third consecutive season in the UEFA Champions League and they went all the way to the final last year, so it may shock you to find out that they've only won once away from home in those three seasons. They lost at Arsenal, Marseille, and Olympiacos in 2011, they lost at Napoli earlier this year, and picked up their only road win at Ajax last season. In their other road matches last year, they drew 1-1 at Manchester City, drew 2-2 at Real Madrid, drew 2-2 at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of the Round of 16, drew 0-0 at Malaga in the first leg of the quarterfinal, lost 2-0 at Real Madrid in the second leg of the semifinal (but won 4-3 on aggregate,) and lost the final 2-1 to Bayern Munich at Wembley.

Match Facts

Sven Bender went out injured here in the 25th minute of this
fixture in 2011. Mario Gotze also left injured four minutes later.
Arsenal and Dortmund have met twice before in the Champions League group stage, in 2002 and 2011. Arsenal won in London on both occasions, 2-1 in 2011 and 2-0 in 2002. Incidentally, both goal scorers from the November 23, 2011 match went on to join Manchester United the following summer. Dennis Bergkamp and Freddie Ljungberg had the goals for Arsenal in 2002.

There have been 10 goals between the sides in four total matches, but only one of the goal scorers from those matches remains available to play in this game; oddly, that's Tomas Rosicky, who scored twice for Dortmund in a 2-1 win over Arsenal in Germany in 2002 (Thierry Henry had the goal for Arsenal.) All three Arsenal goals against Dortmund in 2011 were scored by the same guy who shall remain nameless, while Dortmund's equalizer in the 1-1 draw in Germany was scored by Ivan Perisic, who now plays for Wolfsburg.

Arsenal faced German competition four times last year, but lost both home games by two clear goals, 2-0 to Schalke in the group stage and 3-1 to Bayern Munich in the round of 16's first leg. Their record in Germany was slightly better, with a 2-2 draw in Gelsenkirchen and a 2-0 win in Munich. Dortmund, meanwhile, picked up four out of a possible six points against Manchester City in last year's group stage, winning 1-0 at home and drawing 1-1 in Manchester.

The Referee

Oh God, terrifying...
The match officials are from Sweden; the referee is Jonas Eriksson. Arsenal have seen Eriksson as referee once before, on Matchday 3 of last year, also at home, and also against German competition, a 2-0 loss to Schalke 04. Dortmund have seen Eriksson twice away from home and are winless in those two matches, a 3-0 loss to Marseille in 2011 and a 0-0 draw with Malaga in last year's quarterfinal first leg.

Eriksson has taken charge of 19 Champions League matches in his career. English clubs have a record of one win (Chelsea over Porto in 2009,) one loss (Arsenal last year,) and one draw (Manchester City against Napoli two years ago) with Eriksson as referee, German clubs have two wins, three losses, and one draw.

Around Europe
  • Tuesday: Schalke 04 v. Chelsea; Veltins-Arena, Gelsenkirchen
  • Tuesday: Steaua Bucuresti v. Basel; Arena Nationala, Bucharest
  • Tuesday: Marseille v. Napoli; Stade Velodrome, Marseille
  • Tuesday: Austria Wien v. Atletico Madrid; Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna
  • Tuesday: Porto v. Zenit St. Petersburg; Estadio do Dragao, Porto
  • Tuesday: AC Milan v. Barcelona; San Siro, Milan
  • Tuesday: Celtic v. Ajax; Celtic Park, Glasgow
  • Wednesday: Bayer Leverkusen v. Shakhtar Donetsk; BayArena, Leverkusen
  • Wednesday: Manchester United v. Real Sociedad; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Wednesday: Galatasaray v. Copenhagen; Turk Telekom Arena, Istanbul
  • Wednesday: Real Madrid v. Juventus; Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
  • Wednesday: Anderlecht v. Paris St. Germain; Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Anderlecht
  • Wednesday: Benfica v. Olympiacos; Estadio da Luz, Lisbon
  • Wednesday: CSKA Moscow v. Manchester City; Arena Khimki, Khimki
  • Wednesday: Bayern Munich v. Viktoria Plzen; Allianz Arena, Munich

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Norwich City

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, October 19
10:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Lee Probert
    • Assistants: Ron Ganfield and Mark Scholes
    • 4th Official: Keith Hill
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 3 - 1 Norwich
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 24 Arsenal wins, 11 Norwich wins, 18 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-W-W-W-D
  • Norwich's League Form: L-W-L-L-W-L
  • Weather: Drizzle, clearing by midday, 17 C / 63 F
Another international break has come and gone and a pivotal stretch of matches looms on the horizon for Arsenal Football Club. Between now and the next international break in November, Arsenal play seven times. Among those seven games, Arsenal play Norwich City and Crystal Palace, two clubs currently in relegation places. They also play Borussia Dortmund twice in the Champions League. The other three games are against Liverpool, Manchester United, and Chelsea, the latter match coming in the League Cup.

As you can see, that's a pretty daunting list of matches, the type of stretch that may truly define this season. Arsenal come into this stretch at the top of the table, both in the Premier League and in their Champions League group. Starting this stretch off on the right foot will be crucial in order to go into the next Interlull on the same high we're on now.

Among the seven matches, the two against current relegation battlers would seem the ripest for three points each, tomorrow included. So, come on you Gunners!

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Walcott (stomach,) Sanogo (back,) Podolski (hamstring,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Diaby (knee)
Doubts: Ozil (knee,) Sagna (hamstring,) Cazorla (ankle)

Relax! It's not that bad!
Arsenal have a number of players just about to return from injury, which is why the "doubts" section is so crammed this week. Santi Cazorla is back in training after missing a month with an ankle injury and could start and Bacary Sagna might be back after his hamstring tweak just before the Interlull. Theo Walcott has now been listed as "two weeks away," hopefully not in Diaby-time.

Mesut Ozil, as you likely know, left Tuesday's 5-3 Germany win over Sweden as a precaution with a knee bruise; it is not expected to keep him out of action, necessarily. Personally, I'd start him on the bench, use him only if necessary, and let him rest up for Tuesday.

Arsene Wenger may choose to rotate more liberally than usual, now that he has some attacking options returning, especially considering Arsenal play Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday. Players like Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini should be rested after not playing during the international break (in addition to those that missed international duty via injury that are returning, like Cazorla.) Suddenly, Arsenal have options; I don't know what to make of that!

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Flamini, Cazorla, Wilshere, Ramsey, Giroud.

Norwich Squad News

Out: Bennett (knee)
Doubts: Pilkington (hamstring)

Why does it look like there are even more letters than even
"van Wolfswinkel" requires on his shirt in this photo?
Left winger Anthony Pilkington is a doubt with a hamstring injury; Pilkington remained on Ireland's bench for their loss to Germany on Friday, then was ruled out of their Tuesday match against Kazakhstan. If Pilkington misses out, he'll be replaced by Nathan Redmond on the left. Redmond came off the bench in the 81st minute against Chelsea two weeks ago (and then Chelsea scored twice, but that's not exactly related.) Elliott Bennett is also out with a knee injury.

Norwich plays a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Alex Tettey playing in the holding role, behind Jonathan Howson and Leroy Fer in the center, Robert Snodgrass wide to the right, Pilkington (or his replacement) wide to the left, and Ricky van Wolfswinkel (wait, seriously?) up front. There is nothing to suggest that Norwich won't play with just one striker away from home.

Predicted XI: Ruddy, Martin, Turner, Bassong, Olsson, Tettey, Snodgrass, Howson, Fer, Redmond, van Volfswinkel.

Current Form

Norwich looked to be stealing a point from Chelsea two weeks
ago, until an implosion in the final 10 minutes.
It's kind of funny that since the season opening capitulation to Aston Villa, Arsenal's only blemishes on their record are two draws at The Hawthorns, one of which they ending up winning in a penalty shootout. The league winning streak may have been snapped at five, but the common consensus is that the 1-1 draw two weeks ago will likely look more like one point gained rather than two points dropped come season's end. That said, the draw still extends Arsenal's unbeaten streak to 11 games, their longest since the end of 2011/12 and the beginning of 2012/13; the last time Arsenal went unbeaten in 11 straight within the same season was the winter of 2011, a streak that ended with Birmingham City winning silverware at Arsenal's expense at Wembley.

Norwich City, on the other hand, have had a turbulent start to their season, winning just twice in seven league games. Norwich's two wins have each been by 1-0 scorelines, over Southampton and Stoke. They also opened the year with a 2-2 draw with Everton, but have also lost to Hull City, Tottenham, Aston Villa, and most recently Chelsea, imploding late at Carrow Road in that match. The Canaries have won twice in the League Cup, defeating Bury in the second round and Watford in the third (the latter of which required a late equalizer and extra time;) they've earned a date with Manchester United at Old Trafford in the fourth round for their troubles.

Match Facts

Lukas Podolski celebrates Arsenal's third goal in seven
minutes against Norwich in April.
Arsenal and Norwich split the points last season, with each club winning at home. The year prior, Norwich's first since returning to the top flight, Norwich picked up a draw at the Emirates, but Arsenal won earlier at Carrow Road.

I'll admit I missed this fixture last year; I was scheduled to fly to Montreal for vacation the day prior, but a freak snowstorm (April, AMIRITE?) forced us to land in Syracuse instead. When our plane finally touched down in Montreal on Saturday morning, Norwich led 1-0, Michael Turner having put the visitors ahead in the 56th minute. Just as I gained WiFi access on my phone, Mikel Arteta had just converted from the penalty spot to equalize. By the time I reached the customs line, Arsenal had scored three goals in seven minutes, the latter two coming from Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski. I believe that was the last time Arsenal didn't score first in a match before West Brom struck first two weeks ago.

The reverse fixture, which was the first match after the October international break last year, was not as kind to Arsenal. The Gunners had over 60% of the possession, but Norwich came away 1-0 winners after an early goal where Vito Mannone parried a shot straight into the path of Grant Holt.

The Referee

"I'll just rest right here, thank you..."
The referee is Wiltshire-based Lee Probert. If you're the kind of person who believes that trends involving referees matter for results, avert your eyes for this section. Maybe don't even read it at all.

Arsenal are winless in their last five matches with Probert in the middle, drawing two and losing three. In addition, Arsenal's last win with Probert as the referee required extra time; it came in the League Cup over Tottenham in September of 2010, in which Arsenal struck three times in the first 15 minutes of extra time, thanks in part to two penalties. Since then, Arsenal drew 2-2 at Wigan, lost 1-0 to Manchester City in the 2011/12 League Cup, lost 2-1 at Fulham, lost 1-0 at Norwich, and drew 1-1 at Southampton. Arsenal's last win in 90 minutes with Probert as referee came four years ago yesterday, 3-1 over Birmingham. I recall Arsenal scored twice within two minutes in that game, all while I was trying to get a drink.

Norwich, on the other hand, are unbeaten in their last seven matches with Probert, winning five and drawing two. This includes matches in the Premier League, Championship, and League One. Their last loss with Probert came to Stoke City, in the Championship, on December 1, 2007. Since then, the Canaries drew 1-1 with Wolves, beat Ipswich 2-0, beat Leeds 1-0, drew 1-1 with Everton, beat Bolton 2-0, beat Arsenal 1-0, and beat Wigan 2-1.

Probert's worked a few of the bigger name upsets this year, which is worrying if you're an Arsenal supporter: he was the referee for Cardiff's win over Manchester City and West Ham's win over Tottenham.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Newcastle United v. Liverpool; St. James' Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: Chelsea v. Cardiff City; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Saturday: Everton v. Hull City; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Southampton; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. West Bromwich Albion; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Sunderland; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday (late): West Ham United v. Manchester City; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Sunday (late): Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Monday (night): Crystal Palace v. Fulham; Selhurst Park, London

Preview by Numbers: West Bromwich Albion v. Arsenal

The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
Sunday, October 6
11:00 a.m. EDT, 16:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Lee Mason
    • Assistants: Scott Ledger and Marc Perry
    • 4th Official: Jonathan Moss
  • This Match, Last Year: West Brom 1 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 65 Arsenal wins, 36 West Brom wins, 30 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-W-W-W-W-W
  • West Brom's League Form: L-D-L-D-W-W
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 18 C / 64 F
Presented without comment. Just bask in the glory.
Arsenal extended their unbeaten streak to 10 games on Tuesday (or winning streak, depending on how you consider penalty shootouts; this blog considers that match drawn.) Their 2-0 evisceration of Napoli was so one-sided through the first quarter of an hour, it was hard not to get carried away with thoughts of what this team could accomplish.

I hate to be the one to bring you back down to earth, but it's October 4 and there are 32 league games remaining. That said, I've mentioned many times that you can only play matches one at a time, and it's three more points up for grabs on Sunday at the Hawthorns, where Arsenal won on penalties just a week and a half ago.

This match will bring us to the international break. Last year, Arsenal went into the October break in fifth place, then won two of their next eight and fell to 10th. The year before, Arsenal was in 15th at the break, but then went unbeaten in seven afterwards. What I mean to say is that international breaks can be form disruptors. Then again, September's wasn't; Arsenal went into it on a high note and then got better from there.

Three points would guarantee Arsenal's place at the top of the table going into 12 days without a match. So, let's do it.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Sagna (hamstring,) Walcott (stomach,) Cazorla (ankle,) Sanogo (back,) Podolski (hamstring,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Diaby (knee)

Sagna's out two weeks, so deal with it,
The only change to Arsenal's injury list is the inclusion of Bacary Sagna, who had a scan on his hamstring; Arsene Wenger called it "a little problem," which we all know by now could mean anything. Thursday's scan indicated that Sagna could miss two weeks, or Sunday plus international duty. Conveniently timed, Bacary. On a similar note, it appears that Santi Cazorla is still short (read: Wenger is making sure Spain doesn't use him during the break) and the long-term injured are still long-term injured.

As for the starters, well, why fix what isn't broken? The big questions surround the midfield five, of which there are now seven options: Mathieu Flamini, Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Tomas Rosicky, and Serge Gnabry. My guess (which will be wrong)? Keep Flamini and Arteta together in the holding roles, keep Rosicky and Gnabry on the bench, and play Wilshere wide left and Ramsey wide right with Ozil in the middle. *dusts off hands vigorously*

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Flamini, Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, Giroud.

West Brom Squad News

Out: Brunt (groin,) Gera (knee,) Thorne (knee,) Vydra (hamstring,) Foster (ankle)
Doubts: Anelka (ankle,) Sinclair (hamstring,) Morrison (knock,) Long (knee)

The only thing that would've made this picture better
would've been a sad Van Persie in the background.
Somehow, West Brom now leads the league in injuries over Arsenal, with nine names on their full list. Just like Arsenal, West Brom have been thriving anyway, especially since their switch in formation from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 last month. The Baggies were winless before the switch (aside from a win over Newport County) and are unbeaten in three since (remember, the match was drawn before the shootout.)

Scott Sinclair was forced out of action early in last week's match at Old Trafford, but his replacement, Saido Berahino, scored the winning goal; the Burundian also scored in the League Cup against Arsenal last week. With Sinclair a doubt, it's likely Berahino will start. Nicolas Anelka and James Morrison (not to be confused with Jim Morrison) missed last week's match entirely and are doubts for Sunday.

West Brom's forward line utilizes their two transfer deadline signings, with Victor Anichebe starting up top and Stephane Sessegnon behind him. Morgan Amalfitano, on loan from Marseille, starts on the right wing while, as mentioned above, Berahino may start on the left.

Predicted XI: Myhill, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Yacob, Mulumbu, Berahino, Amalfitano, Sessegnon, Anichebe.

Current Form

Arsenal's form is great! You know that; it doesn't really bear repeating. The more weeks I get to say this simple line, the better. Keep it up, please.

West Brom, as I mentioned before, have not lost (aside from penalties) since switching formations before their match with Sunderland last month. Before that win over Sunderland and aside from their League Cup win over Newport County, West Brom had not won at the Hawthorns since March 9. That unpleasant swing at home included a 2-1 loss to Arsenal, a 1-1 draw with Newcastle, a 3-2 loss to Wigan, and a preposterous 5-5 draw with Manchester United last season, as well as 1-0 and 2-0 losses to Southampton and Swansea, respectively, this year. West Brom were in 20th place after their loss to Swansea just before the September international break; they are now in 10th just three matches later.

Match Facts

Seriously, we just played this game...
Since Arsenal just played this fixture in the League Cup a week ago, I'm sure you won't mind if I just copy and paste what I said in this section at that time; it still applies and judging by our blog analytics, nobody read that preview anyway. If you did, feel free to skim on by:

In 2010/11, West Brom got away with facing Manuel Almunia twice and took four out of a possible six points from the Gunners. Since then, Arsenal have won all four league meetings. Last year, in the first meeting at the Emirates, Arsenal won 2-0 on the strength of two penalties; controversy surrounded Santi Cazorla's dive to win the first, but the Gunners still controlled the match from beginning to end and deserved the win. In the last meeting at the Hawthorns, Tomas Rosicky fired Arsenal to a 2-0 lead, but Per Mertesacker's red card set up James Morrison's penalty to make it 2-1 and 25 of the most nervous minutes of my life followed.

Of course, we can't talk about Arsenal at the Hawthorns and not mention the final day of the 2011/12 season, in which Marton Fulop's follies aided Arsenal to a 3-2 win and a third place finish. West Brom's last win over Arsenal at home came in October of 2005.

The Referee

Mark Noble begs Lee Mason not to be jealous of his hair.
The referee is Lancashire-based Lee Mason. I'm not particularly fond of Mason, but he's not as bad as the other Lee referee (Probert.) Mason did not work a match last weekend after being in charge of a 3-2 Everton win over West Ham the week prior, in which the tide of the match turned after Mason sent off West Ham's Mark Noble for a second bookable offense.

Arsenal saw Mason twice last season; both matches were on the road (Stoke City and Aston Villa) and both ended in 0-0 draws. Mason only showed three yellow cards between the two games combined, none to Arsenal players. Arsenal won both of their matches with Mason the year prior.

Mason worked two West Brom fixtures last season; incidentally, they were the Baggies' two league fixtures with Swansea. West Brom lost 3-1 at the Liberty last November and won 2-1 at the Hawthorns in March.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Manchester City v. Everton; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Cardiff City v. Newcastle United; Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff
  • Saturday: Fulham v. Stoke City; Craven Cottage, London
  • Saturday: Hull City v. Aston Villa; The KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. Crystal Palace; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday (late): Sunderland v. Manchester United; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Sunday (early): Norwich City v. Chelsea; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Sunday (early): Southampton v. Swansea City; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Sunday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. West Ham United; White Hart Lane, London

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Napoli, Champions League Group Matchday 2

Emirates Stadium, London
Tuesday, October 1
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials from Serbia
    • Referee: Milorad Mazic
    • Assistants: Milovan Ristic and Dalibor Djurdjevic
    • 4th Official: Vladimir Cadjenovic
    • Additional Assistants: Danilo Grujic and Miodrag Gogic
  • All-Time in All Competitions: First competitive meeting
  • Arsenal's European Form: L-L-W // W-W-W
  • Napoli's European Form: W-W-L-L-L // W
  • Weather: Partly Cloudy, 15 C / 59 F
Serge Gnabry celebrates his first Arsenal goal by being
obscured by everyone else on the team, especially that
handsome French bloke.
Arsenal's fabulous run of form continued on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Swansea in Wales, running the Gunners' unbeaten streak to nine games across all competitions (semantically speaking, Arsenal have won all nine of those games, but statistically speaking, a match that is decided by penalty shootout is a draw.) Arsenal play twice more between now and the next international break; first, they will focus on Europe.

When you're in a group as difficult as Group F this season, the value of home games becomes that much more important. Arsenal are off to a good start, claiming three points on the road in Marseille on Matchday 1. If the Gunners sweep their home games, they'll finish with at least 12 points in the group, which should almost certainly be enough to qualify for the knockout stages. With back-to-back matches against Borussia Dortmund looming in the distance, Arsenal's Matchday 2 encounter with Napoli at the Emirates has its importance magnified even further.

An Arsenal win puts them alone at the top of the group with one-third of the games already played. A loss puts them in second or third, depending on the goal difference in the Dortmund-Marseille game. A loss would also demand Arsenal get a result on the road in Dortmund or Naples to climb back into the race. Any way you look at it, this is a surprisingly critical fixture for Matchday 2. Napoli started the group well as Dortmund imploded two weeks ago.

So, will Arsenal continue their run of form and grab a stranglehold on the Group of Death? Or, will they crash to a halt and make everything tricky again?

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Walcott (stomach,) Cazorla (ankle,) Sanogo (back,) Podolski (hamstring,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Diaby (knee)

The floppy haired Czech midfielder will likely return tonight.
Well, the news is improving regarding injuries: Tomas Rosicky is back and Arsenal haven't lost anyone to compensate! The injury list is down to six! High fives all around! Woooo!

With Rosicky available, the question is if he and/or Mikel Arteta get a start in midfield. With Arsenal's next game not until Sunday, it's not really a question of resting players in advance of playing West Brom, it's more of an issue of resting those who might still be knackered. You would think Serge Gnabry would be the first to drop out, but this club has a shocking number of wide players unavailable. If Arsenal had a starting midfield five of Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, and Rosicky, they would have to play remarkably narrow. That would require more up-and-down the pitch movement from the wingbacks, leaving Arsenal exposed at the back against a Napoli squad that looked lethal on the counter when they played in the Emirates Cup.

Rosicky's return brings about an interesting conundrum for Arsene Wenger: if he comes back, who comes out? I don't think that question has a very easy answer, and Wenger may simply choose to retain the starting XI then bring in the likes of Arteta and Rosicky off the bench.

There were reports that Santi Cazorla could be back for the weekend; I think that's wishful thinking. Or, perhaps more accurately, if he does return for West Brom, he'll be called up by Spain and Arsenal doesn't want that. Theo Walcott will miss three to five weeks after stomach surgery (hopefully that's not on the Diaby calendar.) Lukas Podolski might be back by the end of October if we're lucky, but it's longer for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Napoli Squad News

Out: Maggio (knee)

What are the odds Higuain scores? Good?
Rafael Benitez was able to rest a number of his key starters at the weekend as Napoli beat Genoa 2-0; Gonzalo Higuain arrived from the bench in the 59th minute. Marek Hamsik and Blerim Dzemaili are both expected to return to the starting XI.

Napoli have only one injury concern: full back Christian Maggio will likely miss out with a knee injury. Maggio has not played since Matchday 1 against Dortmund; Giandomenico Mesto has started in his place.

Under Benitez, Napoli have shifted to your standard 4-2-3-1 formation, after playing with three at the back under previous manager Walter Mazzarri. Napoli used to sit deep and rely on the counter but now play with a bit more possession (though they retain that threat on the counter-attack.) The visitors will likely target Arsenal down the wings, using Goran Pandev and Jose Callejon out wide flanking Higuain up front.

Current Form

"I'm pretending I have giant ears!"
These two sides come into this match having lost just one match combined, Arsenal's opening day 3-1 loss to Aston Villa. Napoli are unbeaten in seven matches to start their season; their only blemish is a 1-1 draw with Sassuolo on September 25.

Arsenal summer transfer target Gonzalo Higuain had gone four consecutive matches with a goal before coming up empty in that aforementioned 1-1 draw. Goran Pandev scored twice at the weekend in a 2-0 Napoli win over Genoa. Napoli are second in Serie A, behind first place Roma, Gervinho and all, who have won all six of their matches. Napoli plays Roma in Rome on October 19, straight after the international break. During their nine match unbeaten streak, Arsenal have scored multiple goals on seven occasions and have not conceded more than once in any single match.

Arsenal did not have a great record at the Emirates in the Champions League last year, winning twice over Olympiacos and Montpellier, and losing twice to German sides, Schalke 04 and Bayern Munich, by two clear goals each.

Match Facts

Laurent Koscielny celebrates his Emirates Cup
equalizer against Napoli. I'm now noticing that
Olivier Giroud seems to have a habit of wrapping
his arm around the goalscorer.
This is the first competitive meeting between Arsenal and Napoli, though the two sides met in August in the Emirates Cup: Napoli struck twice in the first half on a couple of Arsenal defensive miscues to lead 2-0, but Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny each scored within the final 20 minutes to earn the Gunners a 2-2 draw.

Despite having never played Napoli before, Arsenal have 29 previous matches against Italian opposition. The Gunners have a record of 14 wins, seven losses, and eight draws against Italian sides. Out of 13 home matches, Arsenal have eight wins against Italians, two losses, and three draws. The last time Arsenal faced an Italian side in the group stages, it was 2003/04. Arsenal lost 3-0 to Inter Milan at Highbury, but famously won 5-1 in the reverse fixture at the San Siro. The other Italian side to win in London was Fiorentina, who won 1-0 at Wembley in 1999. In five matches against Italian competition at home since the 3-0 loss to Inter, Arsenal have not conceded a goal.

Napoli have played a total of six matches against English opposition, winning two, losing two, and drawing two. Napoli faced Manchester City in the 2011 group stage, drawing 1-1 in Manchester and winning 2-1 in Naples. They then faced Chelsea in the Round of 16, won 3-1 at home, but lost 3-1 at Stamford Bridge, forcing extra time. Branislav Ivanovic's 105th minute goal saw Chelsea through on their way to the title. Previously, Napoli faced Liverpool in the 2010 group stage of the Europa League, drawing 0-0 at home and losing 3-1 at Anfield.

The Referee

The most important thing I've learned from this image is
that Alex Song's hair somehow got worse at Barcelona.
The match officials are from Serbia; the referee is Milorad Mazic. This will be Mazic's first match as referee for both clubs.

Last year was Mazic's first working the group stage in the Champions League and he took charge of two matches involving English sides: Manchester United's 3-2 win over Braga at Old Trafford and Manchester City's 1-0 loss in Dortmund. He did not work a Champions League match involving an Italian side last year; in fact, he only worked four in total.

Arsenal's German players will have a more recent memory of Mazic; he took charge of Germany's 3-0 win over Austria on September 6.

Around Europe
  • Tuesday: Basel v. Schalke 04; St. Jackob-Park, Basel
  • Tuesday: Steaua Bucuresti v. Chelsea; Arena Nationala, Bucharest
  • Tuesday: Borussia Dortmund v. Marseille; Signal-Iduna Park, Dortmund
  • Tuesday: Zenit St. Petersburg v. Austria Vienna; Petrovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg
  • Tuesday: Porto v. Atletico Madrid; Estadio do Dragao, Porto
  • Tuesday: Ajax v. AC Milan; Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam
  • Tuesday: Celtic v. Barcelona; Celtic Park, Glasgow
  • Wednesday: Bayer Leverkusen v. Real Sociedad; BayArena, Leverkusen
  • Wednesday: Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester United; Donbass Arena, Donetsk
  • Wednesday: Juventus v. Galatasaray; Juventus Stadium, Turin
  • Wednesday: Real Madrid v. Copenhagen; Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
  • Wednesday: Anderlecht v. Olympiacos; Constant Vanden Stock Stadium, Anderlecht 
  • Wednesday: Paris St. Germain v. Benfica; Par des Princes, Paris
  • Wednesday: CSKA Moscow v. Viktoria Plzen; Petrovsky Stadium, St. Petersburg*
  • Wednesday: Manchester City v. Bayern Munich; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
* CSKA Moscow's match was moved due to poor pitch conditions at Arena Khimki.