Borussia Dortmund is a team full of confidence and vigour, and why shouldn’t they be? – After all they have endured a lot of success over the last couple of seasons. Jürgen Klopp is a man who takes no nonsense, but to his credit has developed many young talented players into winners.
Despite having such a youthful squad, Dortmund find themselves with high expectations upon their shoulders. After back to back titles in 2010/11 and 2011/12, in addition to being last season’s runners up in the Champions League final, Dortmund have blossomed into one of Europe’s biggest teams.
This week, Borussia Dortmund will be facing their toughest test of the season thus far. Two deadly ties await, away to Arsenal in the Champions League followed by an equally difficult derby against historic rivals Schalke 04. Regardless of how early in the season it is, these two matches will hold great significance in whether Dortmund can challenge on both fronts this campaign. Last year, Jürgen Klopp’s men were impressive during the midweek European games but could only follow that with a lacklustre domestic performance, resulting in them losing the title to Bayern Munich.
After a narrow 1-0 win on the weekend against Hanover 96, Dortmund now face a gruelling trip to the Emirates to do battle against an Arsenal side which is taking the Premier League by storm. Arsenal may possess one of the best midfields in the world right now, but Dortmund has just as many stars in their ranks too. Dortmund can ill afford to slip up after already losing to Napoli in the opening game. The victory over Marseille, as comprehensive as it was, has done little to help Dortmund’s position going into tonight’s game. A loss and Dortmund would find themselves six points adrift of Arsenal at the halfway stage.
Tonight will see one of the hardest ties of the Champions League so far, with both teams similar in their values and playing styles. Both squads have many technically gifted players who pass the ball around so elegantly. The clash on the night looks set to be won or lost in the midfield. Dortmund’s biggest chance to exploit Arsenal will be down the flanks. With Walcott sidelined and Cazorla likely to be playing on the wing, there will be ample amounts of room for Marco Reus and Jakub Błaszczykowski to get wide and take advantage of the gaps.
Sven Bender and İlkay Gündoğan will need to be at their best to stop the likes of Ozil, Wilshere and the unplayable Aaron Ramsey. The form of Henrikh Mkhitaryan since his arrival in Germany has been sublime. With this being the competition where he made his name playing for Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal may struggle without their best holding midfielder Mathieu Flamini to sit in front of the back four. Add to this the wealth of strikers on show, it would be surprising to see a goalless draw.
Irrelevant of what may happen in the Champions League, Dortmund must deliver a result on the weekend against rivals Schalke 04. The impossible task of challenging Bayern Munich and their strength in depth is a daunting one, but perfection is needed to stop the league champions. Schalke 04 go into this match off the back of Champions League football themselves, and a decent run in the league that has seen them fly up into the European places.
Still, an eight-point gap separates Schalke and Dortmund, but this counts for nothing when rivalries are concerned. The last three meetings have seen Schalke 04 win twice, which makes hard reading for Dortmund fans. Any sort of slip up and Dortmund could find themselves four points off Bayern already, and with Leverkusen keeping tabs, the win is pivotal.