Arsenal welcome German giants Bayern Munich to the Emirates tonight for the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.
Some may say this game couldn’t have come at a worse time for us. We head into the match looking like a club in disarray following Saturday’s embarrassing FA Cup exit to Blackburn and we have a few injury worries at the back. But it’s at times like these a club can really pull together, raise their game and produce an unexpected performance.
It’s difficult to know which Arsenal will turn up at the best of times and tonight is no different. I really wouldn’t be surprised to see us limp to a 2 or 3 nil defeat but equally I wouldn’t put it past us to respond well and pull a victory out the bag.
Arsene Wenger was in defiant mood at his pre-match press conference on Friday and while the papers are claiming he’s cracking up, I was pleased to see a bit of fight in him. Sure, he looks like a man under pressure but isn’t it good to see him come out fighting? Would we rather he had a smile on his face after such a poor display at the weekend and had a nonchalant attitude to it all? Hopefully his fiery demeanor transfers itself to the players and they also come out fighting tonight.
We rightly head into the tie as underdogs but I think that will suit us. Bayern are arguably the second-best side in Europe right now, behind Barcelona, and it’s going to be a huge ask to beat them over two legs. They almost have the Bundesliga tied up already – holding a commanding 15 point lead – and will be determined to make up for missing out on the Champions League last season.
You can see an excellent piece on Bayern’s season so far and an individual analysis of their team here, but its safe to say we’ve got our work cut out to progress. However, it’s for nights like these that we fight so hard to finish in the top four so let’s get behind the players and enjoy it, whatever the result.
The big injury concern ahead of the game is defender Laurent Koscielny who was forced to miss training on Monday after suffering a reaction to his calf problem. With Kieran Gibbs injury and Nacho Monreal ineligible, it’s vital Kos is fit as Thomas Vermaelen is pencilled in to cover at left back.
If Kos doesn’t make it, Carl Jenkinson could come in at right back with Bacary Sagna moving into the middle alongside Per Mertesacker.
The front six should pretty much pick themselves. Olivier Giroud didn’t have a great game against Blackburn but with our lack of alternatives up front, it’s likely he’ll continue in attack with Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott in support from the wide areas.
Bayern have a couple of injury concerns themselves with key midfielder Javi Martinez a doubt with a toe injury. He’s travelled to London and the feeling is he’ll start but one player certain to miss out is defender Holger Badstuber who is still recovering from a cruciate ligament injury. Striker Claudio Pizzaro is also unavailable.
Former Manchester City defender Jerome Boateng will miss the game after being sent off in their last Champions League game but looking at the team below, they still look like a formidable outfit on paper.
Arsenal have an excellent home record in Champions League knockout games, losing just 2 of 17 matches, with both of those coming to Premier League opposition. We also have a decent home record against teams from Germany, winning 9 of 12, so we do have some grounds for optimism this evening. However, there is no denying Bayern are in superb form and will be a tough nut to crack. I can see the game ending in a draw. Arsenal 1-1 Bayern Munich
What would be your starting eleven and what’s your score prediction? Get involved in the comments section below.