Allianz Arsena, Munich
March 13, 2013; 19:45 GMT
Bayern Munich host Arsenal FC in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League round-of-16 tie; a match which on many accounts is only a formality for the German giants, unless you prefer romanticism over rationalism.
It is ‘mission impossible’ for Arsenal, which may have turned to ‘mission unthinkable’ following the news of Jack Wilshere’s absence in this match. Arsenal have lost three of their last four matches – three results which might decide the fate of their season. After the thrashing they received at the hands of the German giants at home, Arsenal were knocked out of the FA cup by lowly Blackburn Rovers and are coming into this match on the back of a 2-1 defeat in the North London derby – which has hampered their chances of qualifying for the Champions League next season and putting Arsenal on the verge of completing another trophy less season.
Bayern Munich on the other hand have faced contrasting fortunes. They have lost only twice this season: 3-1 defeat away to BATE Borisov in the Champions’ League group stages and the 1-2 loss at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen at home in the league. In fact, that defeat against Leverkusen came in October and Bayern has been on an unbeaten run ever since. Incredibly, they come into this match on a run of 15 wins in all competition. Winning the Bundesliga looks nothing more than a formality now with a 20 point gap at the top of the table. The Bavarian giants have also reached the semi-final of the DFB Pokal after their recent victory over Dortmund in the quarter-finals. In short, Bayern are on course to having one of their best seasons in recent memories.
Although Arsenal’s task at hand looks impossible, the fans would at least want their team to go out with a fight, but when you look at the shaky defence of Arsenal and the attacking strength of Bayern, one fears for Arsene Wenger’s side. This could possibly turn out to be an embarrassing score line.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Bayern Munich will be without a lot of first choice players for this match. Midfield general Bastian Schweinsteiger and Jerome Boateng will miss out due to suspension, while Franck Ribery and Holger Badstuber are out with injuries. But Bayern’s immense squad depth means, they will still be able to field a world class line-up.
Luiz Gustavo will replace Schweinsteiger in the center of the park and will start alongside Javi Martinez in front of the defense. Arjen Robben will take the place of Ribery on the left wing with Van Buyten starting alongside Dante in the center of the defense.
Bayern will start in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation, but will sit deep in order to deny the likes of Walcott and Podolski any space to run in-behind them. Philipp Lahm pointed out in the pre-match press conference how they will look to counter-attack, exploiting the space left behind by Arsenal, who will have to commit men forward in order to score the goal.
Arsenal’s attacking intent will suite Bayern perfectly as they are one of the most clinical sides in Europe when it comes to counter-attacking. It would be interesting to see how adventurous Lahm and Alaba will be in this match. Toni Kroos will have the added responsibility of dictating play from the midfield in the absence of Schweinsteiger. Perhaps the only thing Bayern will have to guard themselves is complacency.
Possible Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Neuer (GK); Lahm, van Buyten, Dante, Alaba; Gustavo, Martinez; Muller, Kroos, Robben; Mandzukic
The big news for the Gunners is Jack Wilshere’s injury. The Englishman will miss action for three weeks with an ankle injury. With his absence, the task at hand for the Londoners got even tougher. But the good news for Arsenal fans is that he is likely to miss only one Premier League fixture due the upcoming international break. Lukas Podolski, who scored in the first leg, is also out with an ankle injury. The only other absence if that of left back Nacho Monreal, who is cup-tied. Surprisingly, Arsenal’s first choice goalkeeper Szczesny has been rested for this match.
With Arsenal’s desperate need for goals, Arsene Wenger might be forced to change his tactics for this match. The Frenchman is likely to shift away from his usual 4-2-3-1 formation and field a more attacking line-up of 4-1-4-1. Tomas Rosicky will replace Wilshere in the starting line-up instead of Ramsey because of him being a greater threat and more creative in attack than the Welshman. With Arteta in front of the defence, Cazorla and Rosicky will start in-behind Giroud high up the pitch. Theo Walcott will start on the right with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on left.
Inclusion of Chamberlain will mean more pace in Arsenal’s attack as they would look to stretch the Bayern defense on the wings. Monreal’s absence means Vermaelen will once again start as the left-back with Koscielny partnering Mertesacker in the middle.
Arsenal will have to pass the ball quicker than they did in the first leg and Rosicky’s inclusion will help in raising the tempo of the team’s attacking play. The fact is, in order to turn around this tie not only Arsenal have to play out of their skin, they will also have to hope that Bayern have a bad day in the office.
Possible Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1): Mannone(GK); Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Arteta; Walcott, Rosicky, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Giroud
- Bayern Munich are the top scorers in this season’s Champions League (18 goals).
- The only English team to beat Bayern Munich away from home in Europe (penalties excluded) are Norwich City, back in October 1993 (UEFA Cup).
- Bayern Munich have never lost by more than two clear goals at home in the Champions League.
- Arsenal have only kept one clean sheet in their last 23 Champions League games away from home.
- Arsenal have had the fewest shots among the 16 teams left in the Champions League this season (57).
Player To Watch Out For
Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal)
The Czech international has missed most of the season with injury, but still remains one of the most creative players in the Arsenal squad. On his day and when he is on song, the ‘Little Mozart’ can open up any defense with his vision. Moreover, he is a player who would increase the intensity and pace in an attack. With Wilshere out injured, Rosicky will have to shoulder a big responsibility alongside Cazorla. The 32-year-old’s Arsenal career might be heading towards an end, but this is his chance to turn back the clock and remind everyone of what Arsene Wenger saw in him when he was brought almost seven years back from Dortmund.
Bayern Munich 3 – 1 Arsenal
The team sheets, the statistics and form – almost everything point towards a comfortable Bayern victory in this leg, and it is hard to argue otherwise. But what everyone would expect from Arsene Wenger’s side is to go out with a bang. The Gunners will be desperate for goals, which will open up the match and Bayern will find space in-behind Arsenal. Both sides are missing important players but the difference in the quality of the replacement says it all. Except a similar scoreline to the one in Emirates.