Arsenal vs. Schalke 04
UEFA Champions League Group B Match Day 3
Kickoff: Wednesday, October 24, 2:45 PM EDT
Emirates Stadium, London, England
TV: foxsoccer.tv (subscription required)
Form: ARS WLWWL | SCH WDDWW
Arsenal welcome Die Knappen from Gelsenkirchen, Schalke 04, to the Emirates Stadium tomorrow for the third round of the 2012-13 Champions League group stages. Schalke will come in hot off a majorly enormous 2-1 win in the Ruhr Derby against Borussia Dortmund (and when I say "majorly enormous", think like, Arsenal-Spurs times four, plus about 200 riot arrests after each match, plus like, fire). Arsenal will come in hot off a...oh...sorry; Arsenal will come in frigid from a minimalist (we'll go with that description) "performance" in a loss in East Anglia to the Canaries of Norwich, in which apparently the Gunners were made to wear their soccer boots on the wrong feet.
They're going to have to get a heck of a lot better tomorrow, because Schalke are a damn sight more soccer-y than Norwich are, although it'd be classic Arsenal to play really well against another team that plays really well and open while looking like nincompoops against a deeply packed English team.
Both teams have some injury woes: Arsenal will be without Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (who picked up a hip knock against Norwich), and Jack Wilshere, Bacary Sagna, and Emmanuel Frimpong are unavailable after playing for the U21s yesterday as they build up match fitness. 04 will have to roll without precocious attacking midfielder Julian Draxler, who broke his wrist against Montpellier on matchday 2 in this competition a couple weeks ago. Kyriakos Papadopoulos may be available, but is lacking some match fitness right now due to missing more than two weeks with...the chicken pox.
The chicken pox. The damn chicken pox. Poor guy.
Schalke employ a pretty fluid 4-4-1-1 system, with Dutch international striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar leading the line, and German-English Lewis Holtby roaming behind him as a shadow-strikery type. Both have three Bundesliga goals and should be considered armed and extremely dangerous. Wingers Jefferson Farfan on the right and Tranquillo Barnetta on the left are both seasoned internationals as well, while Marco Höger and Roman Neustädter will roam the middle. Captain Benedikt Höwedes will form the base of the spine along with Papadopoulos, unless the Greek cannot go, in which case, Cameroonian Joël Matip is your best bet.*
Arsenal's options are a bit limited due to injury, but a front three of Olivier Giroud, Gervinho, and Lukas Podolski (who has scored in every game he's played against 04!) is a surefire bet, and Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta, along with Aaron Ramsey, are almost certainly the middle three. Options off the bench are slim, but Serge Gnabry and Andrei Arshavin, along with Francis Coquelin, are available options. Per Mertesacker seems likely to start instead of Laurent Koscielny, simply due to Bundesliga experience. Most likely the lineup will be:
Jenkinson - Mertesacker - Vermaelen - Santos
Ramsey - Arteta
Gervinho - Giroud - Podolski
Prediction: Arsenal to win by technical knockout in the 11th round, after the oils from Schalke's halftime oranges cause their eyes to swell shut, except for Farfan, who insists on trying to continue playing even though Schalke score three own goals between minutes 47 and 48, Huntelaar magically beating Unnerstall by three holds and a submission as the ball trickles over the line.
* [Thanks to SBN Editor and Schalke 04 supporter Kevin McCauley for the assist on this portion of the preview].