The Champions League returns this week with the second quartet of last 16 fixtures; one of the standout games must be Arsenal’s match-up with Bayern Munich. The Germans are looking ominous domestically and on the continent, whereas the Gunners’ inconsistency is blighting their season. Arsenal go into the tie as underdogs but should be by no means written off.
Much has been made of Arsenal’s toiling in the Premier League, with a similarly slow start to the campaign that frustrated Arsene Wenger last season. The north London side have rarely been in the top four so far in 2012-13, and currently sit four points adrift of rivals Spurs in the final Champions League qualification berth.
A shock 1-0 home defeat to Championship side Blackburn made the headlines for all the wrong reasons for the Emirates faithful at the weekend, and resulted in Arsenal’s elimination from the FA Cup. Given that Arsenal beat Rovers 7-1 in the corresponding fixture in the Premier League last season, alarm bells are ringing.
However, despite this the Gunners’ form has been showing some signs that improvement could be just around the corner, with wins over West Ham, Stoke, Swansea and Sunderland since the turn of the year. Despite this, Wenger will not be enamored with his side’s results against the bigger teams. The Gunners have picked up only one point from their last meetings with Manchester United, City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
For Arsenal to stand a chance in the tie against Bayern a big first leg performance in England is needed on Tuesday night. If Wenger’s men can take a lead to the Allianz Arena, no matter how small, it could well be telling. However it calls for 90 minutes of concentration and a strong performance against a top side.
Bayern have been stung by Borussia Dortmund’s dominance domestically over the last two seasons and seemingly have a point to prove after they lost out in the final of the Champions League last season to Chelsea. Jupp Heynckes’ men eased through their group this time round and their form in the Bundesliga has been intimidating of late; they have won their last five games, scoring 13 goals and conceding none. Included in this was a 4-0 victory over Schalke, a side that outplayed and beat Arsenal in the Champions League group stages.
With the attacking threat of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Mario Gomez and others, Bayern are rightly favourites. However, if Arsenal can come out of the blocks quickly in the home leg and take the game to their opponents a first leg result is there for the taking.