When Arsenal were paired with Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 this season, their fans must have met the news with an inevitable sense of frustrated déjà vu. The German champions knocked Arsenal out of the tournament at this stage in 2013 and 2014, only for the teams to be reunited in the 2015/2016 group stage.
Bayern might not be as dominant in the Bundesliga as they are accustomed to, but their pedigree remains. In Carlo Ancelotti, they have a manager who knows how to organise his teams for important knockout ties. The Italian has won the competition 3 times as a manager.
The voices claiming that this could be Wenger’s last shot at Champions League glory with Arsenal might start to make a deafening noise if his charges fall at the same hurdle that has tripped them up for six seasons running.
Ruled out: Boateng, Ribéry
Likely starting XI: Neuer; Lahm, Martínez, Hummels, Alaba; Alcântara, Alonso, Vidal; Robben, Lewandowski, Müller
Ruled out: Cazorla, Ramsey, Pérez, Debuchy, Sanogo
Likely starting XI: Ospina; Bellerín, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs; Xhaka, Coquelin; Walcott, Iwobi, Özil; Sánchez
Bayern possess threats all over the pitch but it’s in the engine room that they might feel that they can wear Arsenal down. Thiago Alcântara and the evergreen Xabi Alonso will look to dictate the tempo of the game and starve Arsenal of the ball, a commodity that they crave and require for extended periods of football matches. It’s for this reason that Wenger might be tempted to reinstall Granit Xhaka now that the Swiss player has served a domestic suspension.
At the heart of Bayern’s defense, Mats Hummels will be the key man as his international colleague Jerome Boateng misses out through injury.
The form of Arsenal playmaker Mesut Özil has come under intense media scrutiny in recent weeks and that doesn’t look likely to stop when the World Cup winner returns to his home country. There have been whispers that the Germany number 10 might be dropped to take him out of the firing line but surely Arsenal’s hopes hinge on a big performance from their record signing. Hector Bellerín made his Champions League debut for Arsenal in Germany against Borussia Dortmund in 2014 and has quickly become one of the most coveted right backs on the continent; Arsenal will need the marauding instincts of the young Spaniard to get a result in another audition to usurp Philipp Lahm as the planet’s finest in his position.
Key Match Stats
- Bayern knocked Arsenal out of the Champions League at this stage in the 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 seasons.
- Bayern have won their last 15 home matches in the Champions League, the longest run of its kind in the competition’s history.
- Bayern have won 13, drawn 6 and lost 3 matches in their history against English sides.
- Arsenal are undefeated in their last 6 Champions League matches.
- Arsenal have scored at least 2 goals in their last 5 matches in the Champions League.
- Olivier Giroud has scored 2 goals for Arsenal in 3 away matches at Bayern Munich.
History and form say that Bayern should cruise to a comfortable home win, but ClickaBet odds of 1.42 do not look tempting. The draw is offered at 4.75 and might offer some value if Arsenal come to the party with a big performance.