Mar 11, 2014, 3:47 AM EDT
Though last season’s Champions League is a distant memory, in some ways, little has changed for Bayern Munich and Arsenal ahead of the second leg of the teams’ UEFA Champions League Round of 16 matchup. When the Gunners visited Allianz Arena last March, they were a top four team in the Premier League that had little hope of winning the league title. They were down two goals before landing in Bavaria to face a team that had become Champions League favorites. Bayern, running away with the Bundesliga, merely needed to hold serve at home to reach the quarterfinals.
What followed was a result that’s given Arsenal hope ahead of Tuesday’s kickoff. Posting a surprise 2-0 win at the Allianz, the Gunners forced the away goals tiebreaker into play, with Bayern’s 3-1 win in North London allowing the eventual champions to go through.
It’s one of only two losses the European Champions have suffered in the last year, with Manchester City, in this year’s group stage, also taking advantage of Bayern team. In both cases, though, the huge advantage the Bavarians took into the game forgave their lackluster performance. Whereas the team had a two-goal edge on Arsenal ahead of the Gunners’ late charge, only a lopsided win by City in the final round of group play would have allowed the Citizens to claim first place. Like Arsenal, they would come up one goal short.
Pep Guardiola, at Bayern’s helm for the City (but not the Arsenal) result, is wary of history repeating itself, using Monday’s press conference to emphasize the need to stay aggressive.
“We have to win this game,” the two-time Champions League-winning coach said, “it doesn’t matter what we did in the first leg. This is what we have to concentrate on.”
The year’s results speak to what a focused Bayern can do. In league, Bayern have a 20-point lead on second place Borussia Dortmund after 24 rounds, having outscored their opponents 72-11. In Champions League, the Bavarians have won six of seven games, their lapse against City their only blemish. After a 2-0 win at Arsenal to open their Round of 16, Guardiola’s team are heavy favorites to claim a second-straight title.
“Well, of course 2-0 was a good result for us,” Guardiola said. “Though it is dangerous … We have to bring our ideas to fruition. The Champions League is more important than the Bundesliga and we have to do our best.”
That best will be more than enough against an Arsenal team missing a number of key components. First-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny will be suspended after seeing red in game one. Theo Walcott is out, injured, as are Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshire, and both of the team’s regular left backs: Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal. Though stars like playmaker Mesut Ozil, attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla, and striker Olivier Giroud will be available, Arsenal will be severely shorthanded in Munich.
“Tomorrow we will have four German players, [Serge] Gnabry included,” Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger explained on Monday. “[Lukas] Podolski is in good shape again, [Per] Mertesacker has become a great player in England and [Mesut] Özil is a great talent, as he will show tomorrow.”
Contrast Wenger’s plight that with a Bayern team that has only one absence: Holger Badstuder, who has been gone all season. The likes of Philipp Lahm, Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos will all be available, with Mario Mandzukic, Thomas Müller, and Thiago Alcantara also among Guardiola’s potential starters. All of them are capable of starting for Arsenal. Only six of them can get the call.
They’re the players who’ll provide the forward push for the best team in the world. Against an injured and trailing Arsenal squad, Bayern shouldn’t have any problems. While we would have said the same thing last year, memories of that disappointment will keep the Bavarians on their guard. Arsène Wenger’s unlikely to take his hosts by surprise this time around.
Sep 23, 2014, 7:28 PM EDT
The 35-year-old midfielder won the World Cup with Italy in 2006 and is regarded as one of the best playmakers of his generation.
Sep 23, 2014, 6:39 PM EDT
The Toronto FC midfielder and U.S. international was fined for his harsh comments regarding the refereeing in Toronto’s draw with Chicago.
Sep 23, 2014, 5:49 PM EDT
Anfield played host to a match that saw two extra-time goals and a penalty shootout that went 15 rounds before the Reds could claim their place in the fourth round.
Sep 23, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
The Serbian club’s supporters were seen waving a banner displaying an anti-Semitic phrase during their Europa League match against Tottenham.
Sep 23, 2014, 4:08 PM EDT
Altidore is off and running for the 2014-15 season, watch his goal.
Sep 23, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
UEFA has already ruled — based on previous offenses — that CSKA’s match against Bayern Munich next week will be played in an empty stadium.
Sep 23, 2014, 2:22 PM EDT
What would Lampard want? Hard to tell from the weekend’s goal celebration or lack thereof?
Sep 23, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT
You do get the feeling they had to do a bunch of work to find people who failed to recognize Dempsey, if only because of the interviews that made the final cut.
Sep 23, 2014, 12:42 PM EDT
The possibilities for juicy upsets aren’t dancing through the slate of third round matches, but there’s plenty to look forward to…
Sep 23, 2014, 11:43 AM EDT
Ghana national teamer and Al Ain striker Asamoah Gyan has called a press conference to refute non-sensical claims that he killed his friend to gain magical powers.
Sep 23, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT
Anfield has been Liverpool’s home since 1892, and the new construction is slated to finish in time for the start of the 2016/17 season.
Sep 23, 2014, 10:08 AM EDT
Oh, the challenges that await a man altering another man’s power rankings.
Sep 23, 2014, 9:06 AM EDT
Hope Solo advocates have been angered by some columns claiming she shouldn’t be playing, while a national pundit gives his take on the story
Sep 23, 2014, 8:09 AM EDT
Bradley Wright-Phillips, you may now step forward to collect your prize of Internet-based high-fives.
Sep 23, 2014, 7:40 AM EDT
It’s hard to imagine the new head safety measures won’t pass quickly, and reports say they could be in effect by October.
Sep 23, 2014, 12:14 AM EDT
Newly-promoted Paderborn is shocking the Bundesliga and providing quite the show in the process.
Sep 22, 2014, 11:28 PM EDT
It was a rough weekend for Americans in England, but outside the country things a little more enjoyable.
Sep 22, 2014, 10:51 PM EDT
The full debut of Men In Blazers graced NBC Sports Network tonight with an assist from Adam Richman.
Sep 22, 2014, 10:04 PM EDT
Despite making just sixteen league appearances the last three years, the Gunners manager says Diaby should be commended for his perseverance.
Sep 22, 2014, 8:41 PM EDT
Seattle’s lethal striker is set to cap the best year of his career with a new deal and a raise.
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