Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 1/2
One of the tastiest UEFA Champions League knockout ties starts with a match at Allianz Arena where the in-form Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich are playing host to stuttering Arsenal.
Carlo Ancelotti did not have the best of starts in the Champions League with Bayern Munich. As a Cup specialists, brought on a premise of the Champions League glory, Ancelotti lead his side to defeats to Atletico Madrid and Rostov in the group stages. Fortunately, it all went well in the end as the Bavarians earned their chance to fight in the knockouts and the players themselves, subsequently, could not have wished for a more favourable draw. Many of the current Bayern Munich players have rather fond memories of the English rivals who have won only one of their five visits to Allianz Arena. Bayern Munich are heading into the Wednesday’s match on the back of an 11-match unbeaten streak, but the mere fact does not provide great optimism as the Bavarians have not been their usual selves since the turn of the year. Insufficiently efficient and lethal, that would be the easiest way to describe Ancelotti’s men over the past month or so. And as the tam still waits on Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller to rediscover their forms, Ancelotti is hopeful rest of the team will step it up to dispatch Arsenal in the first leg.
Jerome Boateng has another six weeks to go before he gets close to getting back on the field following his muscular injury, whereas Franck Ribery is another unavailable player due to hids thigh problem.
Additionally, Xabi Alonso has received a knock to his knee during Bayern Munich training and could be unfit to feature on Wednesday.
The North London side have gone through a similar scenario for far too many times than what they would have liked it to over the last couple of years. With their Premier League titles already wilting and the Champions League hopes faced against the seemingly impenetrable challenge, Arsenal and Arsene Wenger are under pressure. Consecutive defeats to Watford and Chelsea have ruined the atmosphere within the team and the uncompelling 2-0 win over lowly Hull City will not have been much of a morale boost at a delicate moment for the team. Arsenal’s key men have been enduring contrasting forms of late with Mesut Ozil being widely and wildly criticised for his seeming lack of effort, whereas the Chilean Alexis Sanchez is the one who singlehandedly leads the team forward. The positive note ahead of the Bayern game is the fact Arsenal will travel in the first tie which gives them a sort of a cutting edge for the replay. If they manage to survive the scare at Allianz Arena, then a return match at the Emirates might even offer Arsenal a chance to proigress to the quarter-finals of Europe’s elite competition for the first time since 2010.
Aaron Ramsey is looking at another three weeks on the sidelines, whereas Santi Cazorla is still nurturing his Achilles injury.
Nacho Monreal was rested at the weekend and could be slotted back in, together with Mohamed Elneny who is likely to either replace Oxlade-Chamebrlain out of the squad or push his forward in a more advanced position.
Key Factors to Consider
- Bayern are on 11-match unbeaten run in all competitions
- Arsenal failed to progress to UCL quarter-finals since 2010
- Bayern lost only one of 5 home matches against Arsenal
- Bavarians failed to keep a clean sheet in 4 of last 6 matches
- Sanchez scored a brace in his last game for Arsenal
Bayern Munich have a way to deal with Arsenal as they have been eliminating Gunners on regular basis over the last couple of years. Ancelotti’s men are much better shape than Arsenal and should have no problems climbing out on top against the English rivals.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 1/2
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