Allianz Arena, Munich
March 11, 2014; 19:45 BST
Bayern Munich host Arsenal FC at the Allianz Arena in the second leg of their round-of-16 tie in the Champions League. The German side took a massive two-goal lead in the first leg at the Emirates after Mesut Ozil missed a penalty and Wojciech Szczesny was shown a red card for bringing down Arjen Robben. Arsenal have nearly impossible task at hand as they look to turn around this deficit, against a Bayern side who have lost only five matches in their last 93 games in the all competitions in the last two seasons.
Of course what will comfort Arsenal is that one of those five defeats was inflicted by them as they defeated Die Roten after conceding a similar two goal lead at home last year. But this Bayern side are more ruthless and are unlikely to slip up with Guardiola well aware of Arsenal’s qualities away from home. Both teams are coming into this game on the back of massive wins, Bayern in the league, while Arsenal in the Quarter Final of the FA Cup. The Gunners have nothing to lose in this tie as very few expect them to cause any problem for this Bayern side, but perhaps this when they are their best. If they manage to score an early goal, it will make the Bayern fans very nervous in the stands.
Team news and tactics
Pep Guardiola doesn’t have too many injury concerns at the moment to worry about, although he could be missing a key player in Mario Gotze. The former Borussia Dortmund midfielder, who started against Arsenal at the Emirates, has seemingly picked up a knock during Bayern’s match against Schalke earlier this month. The 21-year-old didn’t even make it to the bench for the game against Wolfsburg at the weekend and he is unlikely to play any part in this match as well.
Holger Badstuber remains the only other injury concern for Bayern at the moment, but the good news for Guardiola is the return of Frank Ribery ahead of this fixture. The Frenchman made his first start in over a month in the 1-6 win over Wolfsburg and marked his return with a goal as well. The fact that he completed the full ninety minutes of the match indicates his injury and is ready to start against Arsenal as well.
Guardiola has a lot of selection headaches now with the return of Ribery to the side and he expected to make two changes to the starting line-up he used against Wolfsburg. Xherdan Shaqiri will be replaced by Thiago Alcantara, while Thomas Muller is likely to drop down to the bench despite scoring a brace and providing an assist in the last game. Mario Mandzukic, who scored a brace after coming on as a substitute in the last match, will start upfront.
Guardiola started with Javi Martinez in the holding midfielder role in the first leg against Arsenal, but changed it around at the start of the second half by replacing Boateng with Rafinha and pushing Philip Lahm to the midfield. This tactical change provided them with more control in the middle of the park against Arsenal, who were down to 10-men. The former Barcelona manager is likely to start with Lahm in that role once again as Martinez remains on the bench.
Expected starting line-up (4-1-4-1): Neuer (GK); Rafinha, Boateng, Dante, Alaba; Lahm; Robben, Kroos, Alcantara, Ribery; Mandzukic
There are few other things which grow as consistently as Arsenal’s injury list. They currently have eight players out injured and Kieran Gibbs was the latest addition to this list. The Englishman was substituted in the dying moments of the match against Everton and it he was later diagnosed with an ankle injury. With Monreal out injured as well, Arsenal will face huge problems at the left back spot against Bayern Munich.
There were some concerns about the availability of Laurent Koscielny as well ahead of this game. The Frenchman missed the FA Cup Quarter Final win over Everton with a hamstring injury, but Arsene Wenger has confirmed that he is available for selection ahead of this game. Kim Kallstrom and Aaron Ramsey are close to returning to full fitness and they might feature in the upcoming match against Tottenham Hotspur.
Wojciech Szczesny, who picked up a much talked about red card in the first leg, will miss this game due to suspension. Abou Diaby, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott are the long term injury concerns for the Gunners at the moment.
Arsene Wenger is expected to make two changes to the side he fielded against Everton. Olivier Giroud, who scored a brace after coming on as a substitute in the second half in the last game, will start upfront in place of Yaya Sanogo, who started in the first leg against Bayern. The other change will be at the left back spot and it will be interesting to see who Arsene Wenger chooses to replace Gibbs in that role. Wenger has the option of playing Jenkinson as right back and shifting Bacary Sagna as left back, but exposing Jenkinson to Ribery could prove to be suicidal. The Arsenal manager is likely to opt for a more experienced defender and Thomas Vermaelen is likely to start his second match in a row – this time as a left back. It will be interesting to see how the Belgium international copes with the pace and guile of Arjen Robben.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Fabianski (GK); Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Flamini, Arteta; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Cazorla; Giroud
Players to watch-out for: Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich); Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)
Prediction: Bayern Munich 2-1 Arsenal