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UEFA Champions League Preview: Arsenal v Bayern Munich

Arsenal have defied the critics to enjoy a strong season but their biggest test to date sees Bayern Munich visit London on Wednesday.

Arsene Wenger’s side sit second in the Premier League table and qualified for the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a 2-1 win over Liverpool on Sunday.

Arsenal fans are beginning to dream of a first trophy since 2005 but their progress in the UEFA Champions League faces a tough inquisition when the European champions come to town for the first leg of the last-16 clash.

The Emirates Stadium outfit were knocked out by Bayern at the same stage of the competition last season despite a 2-0 win in Munich – one of just three losses the German giants suffered in 2013.

Arsenal – who won four matches to finish second in Group F – have not lost at home in their last 13 games and defender Per Mertesacker is confident of another positive result.

“That’s a big duel against the German side,” he told the club’s official website.

“I think (they are) one of the best teams in the world at the minute. But (it’s) another home game and we are very confident at the moment with home games.

“We haven’t conceded a lot in the last couple of weeks so confidence is good.”

Lukas Podolski was back on the scoresheet on Sunday and the performance of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – who scored the opener and set up the German forward for the second goal – will have pleased Wenger in the continued absence of fellow winger Theo Walcott (knee).

Midfielders Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla will be expected to come back into the starting line-up, while Kieran Gibbs, Bacary Sagna and Olivier Giroud started on the bench against Liverpool and will be hoping to start.

Mikel Arteta is suspended and Thomas Vermaelen (calf), Aaron Ramsey (thigh), Abou Diaby (knee) and Kim Kallstrom (back) remain sidelined.

Bayern appear destined for another Bundesliga title, with their 4-0 win over Freiburg on Saturday extending their advantage over the second-placed Bayer Leverkusen to 16 points.

Pep Guardiola’s men have won 19 of their 21 league fixtures, drawing the other two, and they have conceded just once in their last six competitive matches.

Free-scoring in attack and tough to break down at the back, Bayern – who won five of their six games to win Group D – will fancy their chances of ending Arsenal’s great home record.

Xherdan Shaqiri tore his hamstring on Saturday and will miss out, while fellow winger Franck Ribery is ruled out after undergoing buttock surgery.

Two substitute appearances look to have put Bastian Schweinsteiger back in first-team contention as his comeback from an ankle injury continues.

Mon 17 February, 2014
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