Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Arsenal's Champons League Game With Borussia Dortmund Previewed

Arsenal face Borussia Dortmund at home tonight in their Champions League group. It's their fifth game of six in the group, and their final home game too. Their task is a pretty simple one, as a win will guarantee their place in the knockout stages of the competition.

A draw wouldn't be a disaster either, as they will probably make it to the last sixteen as long as they don't lose. If they do draw they will qualify for the next round unless Olympiacos win away to Marseille. However, Arsenal do not want to have to go to Olympiacos in two weeks time needing a result to qualify, as it's never an easy place to come away from with any points.

Ideally Arsenal will win tonight, and Olympiacos will take a point from Marseille which would mean Arsenal would win their group. That would give them a tie against a runner-up of one of the other groups in the last 16, and home advantage in the second leg too. It would also mean that Arsenal would avoid Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Inter Milan in the last 16, and probably be favourites to make it to the last eight.

In the reverse fixture in September Arsenal led through a Robin Van Persie goal until a wonder strike saved a point for Dortmund in the last minute. Dortmund deserved at least a point from that game, as they were by far the better team in the first half. Arsenal hit them with a sucker blow from RVP, and they then defended a lot better in the second half.

Dortmund have already lost both of their away games in the group, and they quite simply have to win tonight. If they throw too many players forward against Arsenal it could leave them far too open at the back, and they could pay a heavy price. Arsenal may be shipping far too many goals in the Premier League, but they have only conceded twice in four Champions League games.

The early team news from Arsenal is that only Tomas Rosicky will be missing from the squad which won away to Norwich City on Saturday. Abu Diaby will return to the squad for the first time this season following his operation last June. He was meant to be back a lot sooner if memory serves me correctly, but he's a player who has suffered with constant injuries ever since his leg break five years ago.

I can't see Arsene Wenger making any changes from the team which beat Norwich, as it was the strongest team available to him. This game is too important for Wenger to consider rotating his team, and the players have had plenty of time to recover from Saturday's game. The best news of all for Arsenal fans is that Wenger says RVP will play from the start.

The effect of RVP's current goalscoring form on Arsenal's rise up the Premier League table cannot be overestimated. He cannot score those goals without the help of others though, and if Dortmund pay him too much attention those other players are more than capable of making an impact.

Theo Walcott is at his best when the opposition are pushing forward, and he can find space in behind them. I'm hoping for Dortmund to do just that tonight, and I think Walcott will get some goalscoring opportunities if they do. He's due a goal or two and tonight might just be the night for him to cash in.

Dortmund needed a win away to Bayern Munich at the weekend to blow the title race in Germany wide open, and they did just that with a Mario Gotze goal. He's a player Arsenal will have to watch closely tonight, as his ability to pick a pass and score goals is excellent for such a young player. Arsenal will have to keep things as tight as possible at the back and in midfield too, and take the chances which come their way.

Hopefully all the misses against Norwich will have thought the players to be a little more clinical in front of goal and Dortmund will pay the price tonight. I'm predicting a 1-0 win for Arsenal with Walcott getting the deciding goal. I know it's brave to predict a clean sheet for Arsenal, but this isn't the Premier League.

That's it for today.

Here's a look at RVP's goal against Dortmund in September.

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