Feb 16, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT
With Manchester City and Barcelona at each others’ throats ahead of their Tuesday matchup, Arsenal and Bayern Munich chose a kinder route to ahead of their Champions League festivities.
The pair of powerhouses are scheduled to play the opening leg of their knockout round faceoff on Wednesday, and the two hold a mutual respect for their opposition.
Arsenal’s German midfield talisman Mesut Ozil knows first hand the massive quality Bayern Munich possesses, and it’s impressed him.
“I have huge respect for Bayern,” Ozil told Germany’s Bild. “They are even better than they were last year, but we’re not going to hide. Anything is possible over two legs. I’m the kind of player who loves games like these.”
Gunner fans sure hope he’s up for these type of games, since it’s exactly why they shelled out $41 million for the 25-year-old. They’ll need Ozil, who has seen a dip in form recently, although he’s tabbed it as a “test of character.”
Bayern players have expressed equal caution, with Bastian Schweinsteiger and captain Phillipp Lahm both making their respect for the Londoners clear.
“We are really looking forward to coming back to the Champions League after the break of a couple of months,” said Lahm. “Especially against top opposition like Arsenal.
“I follow Arsenal a bit more this year and they’ve left a good impression. They’re fighting for the championship and that’s not a coincidence. I believe they’ve developed as a team. They’ve become much stronger, the squad is more balanced and they still play the way Arsenal always play.”
Schweinsteiger was a little more selective with his praise, singling out a German national teammate who he says could play a big part in the matchup.
“Per has made them one of the most defensively solid teams in England,” said the midfielder. “He is one of the best central defenders in Europe with fantastic positional awareness and real leadership qualities.”
Eventually, Schweinsteiger opened up a bit more about the Gunners as a whole
“Arsenal have led the Premier League in England for a lot of this season – so we are aware it will be a very big test.”
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