Marseille hosts Napoli for a Champions League qualifier Tuesday, where a defeat would put the French side on the verge of elimination, while Arsenal will try to maintain its 100 percent League record against Borussia Dortmund in London.
Unbeaten in 12 matches in all competitions, Arsenal is looking to maintain its 100 percent record in the Champions League this season when last year’s runner-up Borussia Dortmund travels to London two years after they met in the group stage.
The Gunners have not lost a match since mid-August and are in top form, beating Norwich 4-1 over the weekend with a sterling attacking performance to extend their lead in the Premier League.
In the other group match, last-place Marseille will aim to secure its first points against Napoli, knowing that a defeat would put the French side on the verge of elimination. Here are five things to know ahead of Tuesday’s matches.
Arsenal has never won the Champions League but the London club’s resurgence at the top level this season has convinced former England coach Fabio Capello that the Gunners can fare well in European football’s most coveted competition.
The Gunners lost 2-1 to Barcelona in the 2006 final but failed to advance past the round of 16 over the past three seasons. Reflecting on the type of free-flowing football currently played at the Emirates Stadium, Capello said Arsene Wenger’s team has the best chances among the English teams.
“Before the first round of Champions League games, I thought Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona,” Capello said. “From England, I like Arsenal.”
Arsenal’s strong start in the tough Group F has also reinforced Wenger’s aspirations for a team that looked set for a difficult season before Germany playmaker Mesut Ozil’s arrival on the final day of the transfer window.
“We have experience - everywhere we go we try and play without any inhibitions,” Wenger said. “We were a bit unlucky with draws in the last five or six years because we often came up against Barcelona, Bayern or Milan, and it was very tight. Hopefully this season we’ll progress to the quarters, semifinal or even final; why not?”
Dortmund injury woes recede
Borussia Dortmund, a finalist last season, seemed to have more injured players than fit recently, but well-timed recoveries mean the German club will be able to field a strong side at Arsenal.
Marco Reus, Nuri Sahin and Sven Bender all started in Saturday’s 1-0 Bundesliga win over Hannover, while Marcel Schmelzer and Jakub Blaszczykowski returned to the bench, leaving Lukasz Piszczek, Ilkay Gundogan and Sebastian Kehl as the only long-term absentees.
Dortmund has been making hard work of the Bundesliga and can expect another tough evening as it seeks just its second win over the Premier League leaders in the fifth meeting between the sides.
Marseille captain Steve Mandanda has urged his teammates not to start panicking despite the club’s lack of form.
Marseille has lost its last three games, Friday’s 1-0 loss at Nice following on from defeats at home to bitter rival Paris Saint-Germain and away to Borussia Dortmund. Marseille is lacking firepower and scored only once in those three games.
“We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, we have to keep going,” Mandanda said. “It’s a difficult spell for us because we have big games coming up. But we have to stay calm, because even though we’re out of form they’re two different competitions so you can’t get everything mixed up. We have to stick together and move forward.”
Veteran Souleymane Diawara is likely to continue at center half. The 34-year-old came on after eight minutes when Lucas Mendes limped off after twisting his ankle in Friday’s loss.
Marseille coach Elie Baup must decide who to play up front. After making a bright start to the season, with goals in each of his first three league games, striker Andre-Pierre Gignac has not scored in his past seven matches and missed a good chance against Nice with a free header.
Marseille reserve goalkeeper Gennaro Bracigliano won’t be devastated if his club loses to Napoli. Bracigliano was born in France but his family has roots in Salerno, a town located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Naples.
“My grandparents moved from there to France,” said Bracigliano, who made his Champions League debut in a 2-1 loss against Inter Milan two seasons ago. “Italy is still in my life on a daily basis, either through food or celebration days.”
The 33-year-old goalkeeper is also impressed by Napoli’s formidable attacking lines.
“Like every Champions League team, they are a high-level side,” he said. “(Edinson) Cavani’s departure has been compensated. (Rafa) Benitez has brought in new methods and a new spirit which is good but we are determined to open our account.”
Marseille should get some confidence from several statistics ahead of its match against Napoli.
First of all, the Italian side’s away form looks pretty bad, having won only one of its last five European matches on the road. And Napoli has scored only two goals in six games against French teams.
Among other good news for Marseille, Napoli warmed up for its trip to France with a 2-0 loss to Roma that saw defender Miguel Britos dislocating his collarbone. The 28-year-old center back has been ruled out for the match at the Velodrome while Napoli coach Rafa Benitez will also be missing Camilo Zuniga because of the left back’s knee injury.
Date created : 2013-10-22