18th February 2013
Arsenal could have done without the FA Cup defeat to Blackburn ahead of the clash with one of Europe’s strongest sides, but the Gunners should not be written off just yet. Bayern Munich are flying high at the moment and they will fancy their chances of winning at the Emirates having last failed to win away back in November.
This time last year the Gunners faced then world beaters Milan in the same stage, and they produced a stunning performance to beat the Rossoneri 3-0 after losing 4-0 in the first leg, and it is another inspired display that Arsenal need if they are to stand any chance of making it to the quarter-finals. Home loss to Blackburn Rovers in the FA Cup was certainly a huge blow for the players’ confidence, but having played pretty well over the last few weeks, the Gunners, nonetheless, have some reason for optimism. Arsene Wenger faces serious selection problems ahead of the crunch tie with Bayern, seeing that Kieran Gibbs is injured and Nacho Monreal is cup-tied. This basically means that captain Thomas Vermaelen is set to start at left-back, so the French manager was certainly delighted to see Laurent Koscielny back in action after his compatriot had picked up an injury on international duty. Wenger will also have a number of first team regulars back after they were rested at the weekend.
After Chelsea spoiled Bayern’s Champions League party last term, the Bavarians need to be wary when facing another English side, although everything suggests that they will be celebrating at the end of this tie. Jupp Heynckes’ side have been absolutely relentless this season, with the second of their only two defeats this season recorded back in October. Meanwhile, the Bavarians have created a 15-point cushion at the top of Bundesliga standings, qualified for DFB Pokal quarter-finals and made it to Champions League knockout stages. After the heavy summer spending ensured the squad have sufficient strength in depth, Bayern easily dealt with everything thrown their way, and they now enter the Arsenal clash on the back of a five-match winning run. The Bavarians may be without Jerome Boateng, Claudio Pizarro and Holger Badstuber, but they will have Javi Martinez back to the side from injury, as well as the likes of Robben, Gomez and Gustavo ready to enter the pitch from the bench in case things do not go as planned.
As much as Arsenal have improved over the last few weeks, I just don’t see how the side low on confidence and lacking in team spirit are going to match one of Europe’s top sides. Bayern are clearly on top of their game at the moment, and I can see them winning at the Emirates.
Verdict: Away win Bayern (2)
Best Odds: 11/10