Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets.
Bavarian hegemony of European football was scuppered by a dogged performance by Arsenal at the Emirates a fortnight back. Arsenal surrendered possession in uncharacteristic fashion, showing the maturity to absorb Munich’s pressure and play quick counterattacking football. Munich were a shadow of the side that has dominated German football, but will be looking to impose themselves at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night. Arjen Robben’s mere presence adds precious vitality in the attacking third of the pitch, while Robert Lewandowski has been on something of a barren run considering his electrifying start to the campaign, while Olivier Giroud continues in his quest to further complicate the selection issue surrounding the injured Theo Walcott.
To Win (90 Mins)
Bayern Munich 4/10
Bayern were able to rest some of their key players at the weekend in what was a disappointing 0-0 draw with Frankfurt. It ended their outrageous 100 percent start to the Bundesliga campaign, but that will matter little to Guardiola if they were to safely negotiate this task. Munich will be hoping that the prolific Robert Lewandowski can end something of a goal drought in conjunction with the similarly prolific Thomas Muller. Xavi Alonso will likely play in the holding role, allowing Thiago to play in a slightly freer role in midfield. This means that Mario Gotze will probably play in the hole, a task that the diminutive playmaker should relish.
Arjen Robben’s slow return from injury will likely see him start on the right hand side, freeing him up to cut inside liberally throughout the match. Nacho Monreal will be tested severely if Robben is able to find that extra gear which has often been the difference between Bayern and their opponents. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alaba drop back from midfield to the left back role, given the return of Robben and the necessary reshuffle that is to follow. The entire shape of the side is giving much more balance with Robben operating off the right hand side, with Muller and Gotze able to interchange behind Lewandowski. They also have the impressive Costa and the ever industrious Vidal just waiting in the wings.
Arsene Wenger’s side know that they probably need at least a point here to solidify their qualification prospects in this group. They have given themselves a fighting chance following that gutsy win in London, but travelling to the Allianz is a slightly different prospect. They will be without Aaron Ramsey while Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott recover from muscular injuries. Olivier Giroud will be eager to prove the doubters wrong and press his case as a truly world class centre forward. Considering the sheer amount of possession Munich are likely to enjoy, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mathieu Flamini start alongside Coquelin in order to try and stem that flow.
This will also free up Cazorla to play in a more advanced role, especially with the absence of Aaron Ramsey. His dual with fellow Spaniard Xabi Alonso could prove one of the key on-field confrontations. Wenger will also require Ozil to do slightly more defensive work than usual while Sanchez is the key in stretching the Bayern defence. Manchester City have shown that Bayern are not invincible on their own patch, but you get the feeling that Arsenal’s squad are slightly jaded following the last few weeks. Despite the fact that they won comfortably on the weekend, it did seem a slightly jaded performance that owes much to the fiercely competitive nature of the Premier League- not a charge that can be levelled at the Bundesliga at this moment in time.
Verdict: Bayern Munich 4/10
Bayern to ease through with a comfortable win- Arsenal have experienced some injury issues of late and also seem slightly jaded with a domestic schedule that leaves little room for rest.