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By Jason Gee
Arsenal FC travel to BV Borussia Dortmund for their UEFA Champions League Group A match on Wednesday knowing that a third successive away win will secure them a place in the second group stage.
The north London club, however, are on a three-match losing streak after defeats in the English Premiership against Everton FC and Blackburn Rovers FC and the 2-1 home loss against AJ Auxerre last week. Indeed, a victory for the German side would see them leapfrog their opponents to the top of Group A, although it would only ensure a place in the next round if Auxerre failed to beat bottom-placed PSV Eindhoven.
Yet another defeat for Arsenal is almost unthinkable. Arsène Wenger's side may be on their worst losing run since November 2000 but you would have to go back to 1983 for the last time the Gunners lost four successive games. What must also be remembered is that the losses followed a run of 30 Premiership matches without defeat - as well as a domestic scoring record which has seen them register in 50 consecutive games.
"It is remarkable," said Wenger. "In the three defeats our opponents have had eight shots and scored six goals. I think we played very well and if we keep playing like that we'll win games." Midfield player Fredrik Ljungberg echoed his manager when he said: "I am disappointed about the three defeats but we’re not worried. We haven't played that badly - we've had chances but did not score."
For their part, Dortmund have not lost in their last six Champions League home games, going back to 1999, and are the only unbeaten side in the 1. Bundesliga after five wins and five draws in ten matches. However they have only managed to score six goals in their last seven home ties in the Champions League - a ratio they could come to regret.
'We must not hide'
Coach Mattias Sammer is aware of the dangers. He said: "Arsenal are narrow and compact, playing a very modern brand of football. We must respect them, but we must not hide as we are strong. Every player must show up and do his bit. I need everyone to stand up and be counted."
Sammer will be buoyed by the return to fitness of the experienced Jörg Heinrich, who has recovered from a neck injury. Up front he has choices, too, with the Brazilian Ewerthon, who scored two goals in the 4-1 defeat of SV Werder Bremen on Saturday, possibly taking over from his fellow countryman Marcio Amoruso alongside Jan Koller. Defender Christoph Metzelder, meanwhile, is back for his first European game since breaking his nose last month.
Wenger can add last season's English Player of the Year Robert Pires to the side which beat Dortmund 2-0 when the two sides met at Highbury last month. Dennis Bergkamp will not be in Germany due to his fear of flying but Wenger is as confident as ever. "Sometimes you play well and don't win," he added. "I'm convinced we'll come back from this stronger than ever."
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