Bayern Munich vs Arsenal Preview

How can Arsenal rescue the game?

The FC Bayern Munich machine rolled on with their eighth consecutive league win since the winter break but it was certainly the most uncomfortable. After 16 minutes of Saturday's 3-2 win, Fortuna Düsseldorf stunned the Allianz Arena into silence: a routine cross into the box abysmally defended by Bayern allowing the visitors to take the lead, only the second time Manuel Neuer has been beaten in the Bundesliga in 2013. It is testament to Bayern's performances this year that conceding a goal should be treated so incredulously. It will be interesting to see the effect it has on Wednesday's Champions League last-16 second-leg encounter with Arsenal.

In the last few weeks coach Jupp Heynckes has had the luxury of resting some of his top players - here it was Javi Martinez and Dante, last week Manuel Neuer, Mario Mandzukic and Toni Kroos - as he prepares for an audacious assault on the treble but he will have to shuffle his pack again due to suspensions for Bastian Schweinsteiger and Jerome Boateng and injury to Franck Ribery and (potentially) Arjen Robben: the Dutchman has hardly trained this week and was completely left out of Saturday's squad.

Dante is a sure starter and Daniel Van Buyten will deputise for Saturday's 86th-minute match-winner Boateng (his first goal in 130 Bundesliga games). With Bayern enjoying a comfortable 3-1 lead from the first-leg, and Arsenal need at least three away goals, expect Luis Gustavo to come in for the suspended Schweinsteiger, alongside the returning Martinez, with Kroos ahead of them in the 'Number 10' role. Were Bayern chasing the game, it is feasible that Kroos may have been employed more defensively in order to cram another attacking player into the starting eleven. With Ribery unavailable and Robben doubtful, Xerdan Shaqiri may get a rare start.

As highlighted by Düsseldorf, Arsenal's best chance remains to counter-attack quickly and directly, exploiting the high back-line of Bayern. This is especially evident when the Bavarians are attacking down their right side - Phillip Lahm's super athleticism often sees him as the furthest player forward but exposes his defence. Arsenal, however, will face a stronger team than Düsseldorf did: on Saturday, Dante wasn't there to organise the defensive line and neither was Martinez, who so often provides that extra layer of security.

With Bayern having remodelled their game to be much more possession-based and having technically better players it is difficult to see how Arsenal will be able to pass their way through. It could come down to how quickly Arsenal's midfield can get the ball to the likes of Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and just maybe Lukas Podolski, the boy from Cologne who now lives in London but allegedly got homesick during his unimpressive three-year spell in Bavaria.

In truth, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Cazorla against Martinez, Gustavo and Kroos sounds more even on paper than it actually is on the pitch and I would be surprised if Arsenal could turn this tie around. Don't forget, they have only kept one clean sheet in seven Champions League games this season and require a minimum of three goals.

Arsenal may have to win the Champions League to be in it next season. Uncannily, they find themselves in almost identically the same situation as their city rivals Chelsea last season: this time last year, after 28 games in England, Arsenal were in fourth place and Chelsea fifth, the difference being three points. This year the roles are reversed and the gap extended to five points. Can Arsenal really repeat Chelsea's feat and defeat Bayern in their own back yard?


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