Reborn Arsenal face stern test against Borussia Dortmund
Last year's defeated finalists should pose more of a threat than Arsenal's recent opponents
ARSENAL had the critics purring with their performance, and that Jack Wilshere goal, against Norwich at the weekend but the Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund at The Emirates on Tueday evening will provide a stiffer test of the team's trophy potential.
Arsenal sit at the top of the table and have easily been England's most impressive team so far this season. But they have only played one team, Tottenham Hotspur, from the Premier League's top 10 this season. "This is a big test," admits Arsene Wenger in The Times.
Dortmund reached the Champions League final last season after demolishing Real Madrid in the semi-final. They were defeated by arch rivals Bayern Munich in the final but after fighting off Bayern's attempts to sign Robert Lewandowski, they are arguably a stronger team than last season.
The Guardian highlights the threat of summer signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who joined the club from St Etienne in the summer, along with Liverpool target Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who joined from Shakhtar Donetsk. Aubameyang has five goals in nine games for Dortmund and he claims to be faster than Usain Bolt over 30 metres. He will partner Lewandowski up front.
Lewandowski's duel with Per Mertesacker will form one of the game's three key clashes, according to The Telegraph. Other match-ups include Olivier Giroud's battle with Dortmund centre-half Mats Hummels and defensive midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski's attempt to shackle in-form Mesut Ozil.
Dortmund defender Neven Subotic tells the Evening Standard that Arsenal's signing of the German midfielder has taken Arsenal to a new level.
He said: "It was definitely something I didn't expect or saw coming. In the past years, from what I could tell, Arsenal were more likely to sell a player for £40m instead of buying one. This is a step forward for them, they have grown and are now buying the kind of players they had to sell a few years ago.
"Sometimes it can take six months or even a year to get accustomed to the league but, within a few games, Ozil already has a lot of assists and goals. He's just very talented. He has nearly perfect technique with his left foot, he knows where to pass the ball, to find the open man, the deadly pass. He has all the offensive qualities any coach would want."
Injury problems have prevented Dortmund from assuming the fluency of last season but players such as Marco Reus and Nuri Sahin are returning and they lie only one point behind Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.
Theo Walcott is still unavailable for Arsenal -likely to return in two weeks- while Mathieu Flamini is unlikely to play following concussion suffered at Norwich.
If Arsenal and Dortmund are fairly evenly matched, Chelsea will go into their game against Schalke as firm favourites. The Daily Mirror highlights the German side's injury problems. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has been ruled out until the New Year with a knee injury. Kevin-Prince Boateng is struggling to return for Tuesday's Group E clash, while Jefferson Farfan has suffered hamstring pain. Midfielders Jermaine Jones, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Marco Hoger and Sead Kolasinac have also been sidelined.
Asked about the number of injuries, German international Dennis Aogo said: "It seems like we had the plague!"
Schalke sit in fifth place in the Bundesliga, nine points behind Bayern, after a sloppy start was kicked into life by the signing of Boateng from Milan. If fit, the Ghana international will be joined by an assortment of youngsters, according to Eurosport.
For Chelsea, Jose Mourinho will be sitting in the stands after picking up another suspension while Ashley Cole will not be risked yet as he recovers from injury. ·