Napoli will play host to last year’s beaten finalists in their first game in this season’s Champions League. Both the Italians and the Germans have gotten off to a flying start in their respective league campaigns, but Wednesday’s matchup will be the first test of their real potential this season.
The Italians have had a change in management since with Rafa Benitez at the helm, they’re certainly in experienced hands. The Spaniard knows how to handle European football better than almost any manager working in the game today, and has the spoils from spells at Valencia, Liverpool and Chelsea to back it up too.
In the other tie, Arsene Wenger’s men head to the Stade Velodrome for their first encounter on Wednesday and know they will need to start well especially with difficult games against Napoli and Borussia Dortmund to come ahead in the group stages. Having qualified from the group stage in each of the last 13 seasons, Arsenal are expected to maintain the trend and somehow manage to go through this tough group F lineup.
Marseille, who did not feature in last season’s competition, will enter the match full of confidence following a positive start to their league season, with 10 points from five games leaving them in fourth position in their domestic league.
What to expect from the Matches –
The arrivals of Henrik Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Sokratis Papastathopoulos have helped Dortmund reel off five league wins on the bounce at the start of the campaign. But they travel to Naples on Wednesday with a relatively poor record against Italian opposition. From their 27 matches, they have won nine and lost 14. Whereas Rafael Benitez’s side have not suffered a Serie A loss at the Stadio San Paolo in 2013, winning 10 of their 12 fixtures, making matters even tough for the German club.
One thing assured from this tie is ENTERTAINMENT. Mark it in Capitals, highlight it with the brightest color you have in your cupboard because with 18 goals scored combined in their last 3 matches respectively with the tally at 9-a-piece for each side, this game holds a lot of excitement quotient and has the potential to have goals galore.
Meanwhile, Arsenal lost on the opening weekend of the season against Aston Villa, but have since recovered and got their campaign back on track with wins over Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland. They also booked their spot in the group stages of the Champions League with a 6-1 aggregate success over Fenerbahce in the playoffs and considering the fact that Marseille seem to be the weakest link in their Group Arsenal will need to step it up big time if they aspire to qualify
from this group as they will head into the game with a host of injuries, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Santi Cazorla (ankle), and Mikel Arteta (thigh) all set to miss out. Lukas Podolski (hamstring) and Abou Diaby (knee) are long-term absentees, while Yaya Sanogo (back) and Thomas Rosicky (hamstring) are both expected to be unavailable. There is also doubt over the participation of in-form French forward Olivier Giroud, who was substituted in Arsenal’s 3-1 win at Sunderland on Saturday with a knee injury.
Marseille, by contrast, have a near fully fit squad to choose from – centre-back Souleymane Diawara is their only anticipated absentee – and they should approach the game with some confidence having lost just two home games in 2013.
Players to watch out for –
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)– Arsenal’s star signing Mesut Ozil will make his Champions League debut for the club and after impressing on debut this past weekend, it would not surprise to see him star again. Lot of hopes linger on his shoulders in the absence of so many of Arsenal’s attacking threats.
Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund) – The German star is Magician with the ball at his feet and even scored Dortmund’s 5th goal, in their 6-2 win over Hamburg. He’ll certainly be someone to look out for.
Probable Line-ups and predictions –
Napoli 2 – 1 Borussia Dortmund
Higuain and Hamsik to score for the Italian side and a Lewandowski consolation for Borussia Dortmund in what would be a narrow 2-1 victory for Napoli at home.
Marseille 1 – 2 Arsenal
Ayew to score for Marseille, while Walcott and Ozil bag the goals for Arsenal in a 1-2 win in visitor’s favor.