Preview by Numbers: Borussia Dortmund v. Arsenal, Champions League Group Matchday 1

Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund
Tuesday, September 16
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials from Portugal
    • Referee: Olegario Benquerença
    • Assistants: Ricardo Santos and Nuno Pereira
    • 4th Official: Nelson Moniz
    • Additional Assistants: Carlos Xistra and Marco Ferreira
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 3 Arsenal wins, 2 Dortmund wins, 1 draw
  • Arsenal's European Form: W-L-L-D // D-W
  • Dortmund's European Form: W-W-W-L-L-W
  • Weather: Scattered Light Rain, 18 C / 66 F
Alexis Sanchez is going to take everyone on this year.
Arsenal faced another one of their early season tests at the weekend, hosting the champions Manchester City, and just as they did against Everton earlier in the season, they came out of that match with an incomplete grade. What could have been a failure turned into, well, neither a failure nor a success. The momentum of the match swung wildly, but on the whole, it was a match where Arsenal led with under 15 minutes to play and they could not snatch all three points. Gunnerblog pointed out yesterday that it felt a lot like the 1-1 draw with Everton last December; two points dropped at the death from what could have been a statement home win. Arsenal have endured some frustrating draws this season, but they also have yet to suffer defeat.

The Gunners and their duct-taped together backline will face another stern test tonight as they begin Champions League group play against fellow group favorite Borussia Dortmund, who come in with a mighty injury record of their own. The pressure in this match has to be on Dortmund, as you have to win your home games; I don't think I'm being pessimistic in saying that a draw would not be a horrible result from an Arsenal perspective, on the condition that Arsenal themselves take care of business at home. Winning your home games and taking, let's say, four points from the road games gives 13 points, which mathematically guarantees qualification to the knockout phase.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Monreal (unspecified,) Giroud (ankle,) Gnabry (knee,) Walcott (knee)
Doubts: Chambers (tonsillitis)
Suspended but also hurt: Debuchy (one match / ankle)

His hair is certainly ready to go.
With Arsenal already depleted at the back, the news is that Mathieu Debuchy is out for what appears to be three months with ankle ligament damage suffered late in the match on Saturday; Debuchy would have been suspended for this match anyway after his red card against Besiktas. To make that worse, Nacho Monreal missed training yesterday (though I have not heard what the reason might be) and did not make the trip to Germany. Thankfully, Kieran Gibbs is fit again, having recovered from his hamstring injury.

Adding a whole separate level of bad luck, Calum Chambers was kept out of training as well yesterday as he's suffering from tonsillitis. Really, you can't make this stuff up anymore. He was on the plane to Dortmund, but fever, tiredness, and malaise are symptoms of the ailment that would seriously damage the young man's effectiveness. This means Arsenal are bringing exactly four first team defenders on the trip, forcing Hector Bellerin and Isaac Hayden onto the flight as cover, while the former might actually start.

If you want some good news, it's that it's as you were with the midfielders and forwards. Olivier Giroud is still out until around New Year's, but Theo Walcott should be back by the start of next month. For the predicted line-up below, I've made only one change to the line in front of the back four from Saturday's XI, Mikel Arteta coming back for Mathieu Flamini. Until proven otherwise, I have to assume Arsene Wenger will still continue with the 4-1-4-1 formation that is horribly misusing some talent, but letting others shine; the work rate of Jack Wilshere, Alexis Sanchez, and Danny Welbeck at the weekend was top notch. Welbeck came off with a tight calf but should hopefully be available, otherwise Alexis would start up top and Santi Cazorla would come back into the XI.

Predicted XI: Szczesny, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck.

Dortmund Squad News

Out: Gundogan (back,) Blaszczykowski (thigh,) Sahin (knee,) Reus (ankle,) Kirch (thigh,) Ji (thigh)
Doubts: Hummels (match fitness,) Schmelzer (thigh)

Dortmund do have Shinji Kagawa back, but what the hell
is going on with that kit design this year?
If there is one top club in the world that have suffered a similarly ridiculous number of injuries, it's Borussia Dortmund. Der BVB are currently without five players, with three other starters slowly returning to full training. As such, I think this is one of the first times in my years of writing this segment that the other team's injury news is longer than Arsenal's.

Among those on their way back, Ilkay Gundogan is still not expected to play with a back injury, center back Mats Hummels has not played a minute since the World Cup Final, and left back Marcel Schmelzer, who missed the entire World Cup through injury, has not played since coming off injured again from Germany's Super Cup a month ago. Schmelzer made the bench for Dortmund's 3-1 win over Freiburg at the weekend, as Erik Durm has been deputizing for club and country (with disastrous results for the world champions against Argentina in a friendly recently.)

Speaking of the German national team, Marco Reus, who also missed the entire World Cup, picked up an ankle injury against Scotland and is expected to be out for another four weeks. Shinji Kagawa has returned after a disastrous period for him at Manchester United and is playing the attacking midfield position in Reus's absence. Polish international Jakub Blaszczykowksi is out for another four to six weeks after picking up a thigh injury in training (he hasn't played a match since January,) while Nuri Sahin is out two months after a knee injury. Elsewhere, Oliver Kirch is out, having not played since August 19 with a thigh injury and Ji Dong-won was left out of the club's European squad entirely.

As for Dortmund's XI tonight, I'm predicting a similar backline to the one that played against Freiburg at the weekend, with Durm still at left back. Sven Bender should return to central midfield playing alongside Sebastian Kehl. All purpose defender/midfielder Kevin Grosskreutz could be used in the midfield. As for who is leading the attacking line (after Robert Lewandowski was sold this summer,) it could be Adrian Ramos (purchased from Hertha Berlin to replace Lewandowski,) Ciro Immobile, or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Predicted XI: Weidenfeller, Piszczek, Subotic, Sokratis, Durm, Bender, Kehl, Mkhitaryan, Kagawa, Grosskreutz, Ramos.

Current and European Form

Marco Reus scored twice against Real Madrid last year, but it
was not enough to overturn a 3-0 first leg deficit.
Arsenal remain unbeaten to start the 2014/15 campaign, yet they have drawn three of four matches in the league and have yet to win away from London. Arsenal's six points in the league is good enough only for 7th, though they remain one of only three unbeaten teams, along with Chelsea and Aston Villa, the latter of whom Arsenal visit this coming weekend.

In Europe, Arsenal snapped a streak of four matches without a victory with their 1-0 win over Besiktas in the second leg of the qualifier. The Gunners have not won on their European travels since their win at Dortmund last season; they lost at Napoli and drew at Bayern Munich and Besiktas since.

Borussia Dortmund opened the season with a victory in the German Super Cup over Bayern Munich by a 2-0 scoreline. They followed that up with a DFB-Pokal first round win over third division Stuttgarter Kickers. Then, to open league play, they conceded the fastest goal in Bundesliga history, en route to a 2-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen. Dortmund have bounced back with consecutive wins over Augsburg and Freiburg.

In Europe last year, Dortmund ended up winning the group of death at the expense of Arsenal, then winning their Round of 16 tie over Zenit St. Petersburg 5-4 on aggregate, despite losing at home in the second leg. They then faced Real Madrid in the quarterfinal and fell behind 3-0 after the first leg. Their 2-0 win at home in the second leg was not enough to see Dortmund through and Real eventually won the title.

Match Facts

Aaron Ramsey scored the winner when Arsenal faced
Dortmund in Germany last year.
This is the third time in the last four seasons that Arsenal will face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League group stage; the clubs previously met in 2011 and last year. In last year's matches, each side won on the road. At the Emirates on Matchday 3, Robert Lewandowski punished Arsenal as they pressed for a winner, burning the Gunners on the counterattack in the 82nd minute to give the visitors a 2-1 victory. In Dortmund on Matchday 4, Arsenal got revenge, winning 1-0 through an Aaron Ramsey goal in the 62nd minute. Dortmund ended up winning the group with Arsenal finishing second and Napoli third, all on tie-breakers as all three clubs finished with 12 points.

In 2011, Dortmund came from behind to draw 1-1 with the Gunners in Germany on Matchday 1. Arsenal won at the Emirates 2-1 on Matchday 5. The clubs' previous meetings in the group stage came in 2002, as Arsenal won 2-0 at Highbury and Dortmund won 2-1 in Germany, through two goals from a young Tomas Rosicky.

Arsenal have an even split record in Germany all-time, winning five, losing five, and drawing five. Dortmund had previously been unbeaten at home against English sides before Arsenal's win there last November.

The Referee

The match officials are from Portugal; the referee is Olegario Benquerença. Arsenal have seen Benquerença twice, both road matches they won by a 2-1 scoreline. The first was in the second leg of the 2011 qualifier against Udinese and the other was on Matchday 1 last year in Marseille. This will be Benquerença's first time working a Dortmund match.

Benquerença's most famous match was arguably the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal between Uruguay and Ghana, when Luis Suarez was sent off for saving Ghana's sure last minute winner. Benquerença was also at the center of a controversial Champions League match in October 2010 between Auxerre and Ajax in which he showed three red cards, including one to Auxerre's Jean-Pascal Mignot, who was warming up on the sidelines at the time.

Around Europe
  • Tuesday: Juventus v. Malmo; Juventus Stadium, Turin
  • Tuesday: Olympiacos v. Atletico Madrid; Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus
  • Tuesday: Liverpool v. Ludogorets Razgrad; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Tuesday: Real Madrid v. Basel; Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
  • Tuesday: Benfica v. Zenit St. Petersburg; Estadio da Luz, Lisbon
  • Tuesday: Monaco v. Bayer Leverkusen; Stade Louis II, Monaco
  • Tuesday: Galatasaray v. Anderlecht; Turk Telekom Arena, Istanbul
  • Wednesday: Bayern Munich v. Manchester City; Allianz Arena, Munich
  • Wednesday: Roma v. CSKA Moscow; Stadio Olimpico, Rome
  • Wednesday: Ajax v. Paris St. Germain; Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam
  • Wednesday: Barcelona v. APOEL; Camp Nou, Barcelona
  • Wednesday: Chelsea v. Schalke 04; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Wednesday: Maribor v. Sporting Clube de Portugal; Ljudski vrt, Maribor
  • Wednesday: Porto v. BATE Borisov; Estadio do Dragao, Porto
  • Wednesday: Athletic Bilbao v. Shakhtar Donetsk; San Mames, Bilbao