Our Champions League scribe gives his opinion on the Round of 16 2nd leg tie between Arsenal and Bayern Munich.
Arsene Wenger’s tenure at Arsenal looks potentially set to end in ignominy, with selection blunders in the weekend’s grudge clash with Liverpool just epitomising his flailing grip on the reins. As ardent a supporter as one may be of Wenger, it’s hard to support the omission of Alexis Sanchez - your one undeniable world-class player - in a game of that magnitude. Carlo Ancelotti’s men had no such concerns, with a comfortable 3-0 away victory at F.C Koln proving the perfect precursor to this match. Munich’s goal will be simple: avoid becoming that meme that circulates this week with a picture of Ancelotti scratching his head with ‘5-1?’ emblazoned at the bottom. He may feel the need to rotate some players as Bayern look to secure their passage to the quarter-finals.
Arsenal v Bayern Munich | Tuesday 7 March | Emirates Stadium | 21:45
To Win (90 Mins)
Arsenal 2/1 | Draw 26/10 | Bayern 23/20
No team has ever overturned a 4+ deficit in Champions League knockout history. That is the rub of it. Furthermore, four of Arsenal’s six previous home defeats in Europe have come in the Round of 16. Two of those defeats - in 2013 and 2014 - have come at the hands of Bayern Munich. So things don’t look great from a historical perspective. And then there is the trivial matter of an absolute vacuum of confidence at the club. Their defeat to Liverpool at the weekend was disturbing in how inevitable it all felt. Wenger has lost his grip and I think that it’s time this club seriously looked elsewhere if they want any evolution.
Santi Cazorla and Elneny will miss out due to injury, while Ramsey looks highly doubtful. Ozil never featured at the weekend - due to ‘illness’- though I rather suspect that the embattled Frenchman still harbours vain hopes of progression and likely rested Ozil and Sanchez. He is just too embarrassed to admit it. I think that this could be yet another embarrassing night for Arsenal, with a rampant Bavarian unit looking to potentially ring a death knell in the reign of Arsene Wenger.
Philip Lahm will not feature due to suspension, which will see Rafinha take his place at right-back. I think that Ancelotti may also give the industrious Alcantara a rest this week, possibly opting for Alonso and Vidal in the middle of the park. I also expect the mercurial Kingsley Coman to get a run in place of Robben, while bang in-form Robert Lewandowski leads the line in his inimitable style. Hummels and Martinez will be hard to break down, while Neuer has perhaps been the world’s best goalkeeper for the last five years.
Curiously enough, Munich have only won one of their last six away games in the Champions League. They have registered three defeats in that period, delineating the early struggles that Ancelotti had in applying his blueprint to the side. But they are in imperious form of late, with Robert Lewandowski underlining his status as perhaps the most deadly number 9 in world football. Arsenal are currently experiencing a crisis of identity and I fully expect Bayern to ruthlessly expose their frailties again.
The Verdict: Total Goals Over 3.5 12/10
This is going to be a goal fest, and Bayern will surely advance. Arsenal will be obliged to attack and really need a performance just to prevent mass unrest at this point. Ancelotti - ever the wily Italian manager - will instruct his side to sit back and hit Arsenal on the counter. This will be a 3-2 type score-line either way, with Bayern easily progressing.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets