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Arsenal draw tough group in Champions League

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Although not the Group of Death, it won't exactly be an easy route to the Knockout Rounds

Christof Koepsel

Arsenal were drawn into Group D today in the Champions League, and as the subsequent ping pong balls were spun, handled, and mixed about, they ended up drawing Borussia Dortmund (again), Turkish side Galatasaray, and Anderlecht, based in the southern municipality of Brussels bearing the same name.

At first look, this doesn't appear to be the easiest draw Arsenal could have had, especially if one looks towards the draw Real Madrid got (Basel, Liverpool, and Bulgarian newcomers Ludogorets).  On the other hand, they could be faced with the prospects fellow Pot 1 club Bayern Munich face, having to go up against Manchester City, CSKA Moscow (and their frozen, plastic pitch), and Serie A runners-up A.S. Roma.

For the third time in the last four Group Stages, Arsenal will face off versus Dortmund, with Arsenal's record versus the German side in those previous Group Stages standing at two wins, one loss and one draw.  The last time Arsenal played Galatasaray in European play was in the infamous 2000 UEFA Cup Final, which saw Arsenal lose and riots break out.  Going to Turkey for any match is always nerve-wracking, but it's especially scary playing at the Türk Telekom Arena.

The last opponent, Anderlecht, is a regular in Champions League Group Stages, but rarely survives the round-robin affair.  The easiest of the three clubs Arsenal will come up against, but with their players and managers used to Champions League nights, they'll have to be accounted for nonetheless.

My hunch is that Arsenal can make it through since Dortmund has started off their season in the same sort of rut we've been in, and Galatasaray don't feature the sort of veteran strength they've had in recent seasons.  The key is, of course, finishing first in the group to avoid those insanely-difficult Quarterfinal matchups that we've received in the past few seasons.  The last few Group Stage matches come at the heels of our usual December fixture hell, so getting as many wins early in the group in order to manage the tail-end of the Group Stage will be crucial.

While not overly excited about the draw, it could have been worse.  It will be an exciting group, and I'm definitely looking forward to the matches.