Arsenal face yet another challenging fixture on Wednesday night, as Arsene Wenger’s side welcome European champions Bayern Munich to the Emirates for the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie.
The Gunners lost out to Bayern at this stage of the competition last season and in fact have exited the Champions League at this stage for three consecutive seasons.
To avoid the same fate the Gunners will have to defeat the European champions over two-legs.
The men from north London suffered a 3-1 defeat at the Emirates Stadium last season in the first leg against Bayern, before going to Munich and winning 2-0 at the Allianz Arena.
The two goal win in Bavaria was not enough to save the Gunners from exiting the competition, as they went out on the away goals rule, much to the frustration of their fans I would imagine.
That game was a catalyst for Arsenal’s season though, as they went on an amazing winning run away from home. The victory also improved morale amongst the players and helped the team recover a Champions League spot in the Premier League, which looked beyond them for much of the campaign.
Arsenal’s victory and also Manchester City’s 3-2 victory at the Allianz Arena proved that at times Bayern can be complacent, but those times do not come along very often.
Bayern are currently in the midst of a 46 game unbeaten run in the Bundesliga and boss Pep Guardiola’s only defeat while in charge of the club came against City. The Spaniard has claimed a very creditable 31 wins from his 35 games in charge in Munich, not a bad record I suppose.
Bayern were outstanding last season and they have kept up their good form in this campaign, winning five out of their six group stage matches, scoring 17 goals and conceding just 5 in the process.
Only Real Madrid and group rivals Manchester City scored more goals in the group stages and only Atletico Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester United had better defensive records.
One of Bayern’s star players from last season French winger Franck Ribery will miss the clash with a buttock injury. Does anybody else think it is ironic that Ribery has a buttock injury and Bayern are playing Arsenal?
Anyway the Frenchman recently came third in the voting for the Ballon d’Or award, behind Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and winner Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
The winger did enjoy an outstanding season with the Bavarians and played a big part in Die Bayern claiming so many trophies. He will be missed, but the Bavarians have so many good players that his absence will probably not hit them too hard.
Understudy Xherdan Shaqiri will also miss the clash through injury. That only leaves Bayern with the likes of Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze, Toni Kroos, Thiago and Arjen Robben to choose from for the attacking midfield positions.
Bayern boss Pep Guardiola must be ruing his luck, only having five international players to choose from in that particular position!
Bayern seems to be strong in every department of the team. Striker Mario Mandzukic has scored 15 goals in 25 appearances in all competitions this season, but is still not guaranteed a place in the Bavarians starting line-up, that is how strong the Bayern squad is this season.
Guardiola has at times this season experimented without a traditional striker, with the likes of Mario Gotze and Arjen Robben playing in the false number nine role this season. The Spaniard may use that formation again at the Emirates.
Arsenal have stuttered slightly in recent weeks with that humiliating 5-1 defeat at Liverpool, followed up by a lifeless goalless draw against reigning champions Manchester United. However, the Gunners 2-1 FA Cup victory over Liverpool should give the team a boost, especially as it was achieved with a weakened team.
Arsenal need to put in a good performance on Wednesday night to dismiss the somewhat silly notion that their season is set to implode. This is a vital game in Arsenal’s season though, as a win could lift the club, but a defeat could lead to more doubts about the team ability to challenge for the big trophies.
The game against Bayern Munich is a true acid test of Arsenal’s ability to face the big teams and come out on top. Good luck Arsenal you are gunner need it!
Can Arsenal pull off a victory against Bayern Munich?