Arsenal finally managed to top their Champions League group this season, but they will be disappointed that they have been drawn to face Bayern Munich in the first knockout round of the competition. These two sides have met six times since the beginning of 2013, with Bayern winning three, and Arsenal winning two. They were drawn in the same group during last season’s competition and the German club won at the Allianz Arena by a 5-1 score-line. Arsenal need a much better result this time around if they are to qualify for the next round.
There has been a change at the Allianz Arena this season, with Carlo Ancelotti taking over from Pep Guardiola. The players have been given more freedom, but it hasn’t been totally successful. During the group stage, they only managed to qualify in second place behind Atletico Madrid. Ancelotti is a great manager, but there is a feeling that this Munich side is on the decline and Arsenal won’t have a better chance of defeating them over two legs. That said, the German club enter the tie as favourites.
The Gunners have the advantage of having the second leg at home, but for them to make the most of that, they require a positive result on Wednesday. They have the quality to get an away goal and they need to aim for that. However, they also need to keep things tight at the back as they can’t let Bayern move too far in front during the first leg. They have struggled in the big matches in the Premier League this season and need a much improved performance on Wednesday.
Bayern Munich are seven points clear at the top of the league in Germany, but it hasn’t been as easy as it has been in recent years. Since the winter break, the German champions have won four matches and drawn once. It has been far from convincing, but they have been building momentum and they will be going into this tie with a lot of confidence. They haven’t lost since the 23rd of November, but that did come in the Champions League against FC Rostov.
Arsenal have been less impressive, losing two of their last three league matches. Their title challenge has been derailed and their lack of a performance at Stamford Bridge will encourage Bayern Munich ahead of Wednesday’s match. Arsenal managed to get back to winning ways at the weekend with a 2-0 win over Hull City, but there was controversy surrounding both goals. They need to be much better in Germany.
Xabi Alonso may not be risked, which means that Thiago could move back to central midfield and Douglas Costa could come into the front three. Robert Lewandowski will be a threat up front as always, while Javi Martinez is likely to continue in defence.
David Ospina is expected to start in goal ahead of Petr Cech, while Arsene Wenger could opt to recall the experienced Nacho Monreal. Granit Xhaka could also be set for a return to the side after being suspended domestically. Mesut Ozil is coming under fire, but I would expect him to start in his native Germany.
Bayern Munich Arsenal
Xabi Alonso is a doubt for the home side, while Jerome Boateng will certainly be missing for Bayern Munich. Franck Ribery is another player that won’t be available for the German champions.
Lucas Perez will be missing for Arsenal on Wednesday, while Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla remain on the treatment table.
It is going to be a difficult match for Arsenal in Germany and their chances depend on whether they show up. Their defence has been unconvincing in recent weeks, especially at Stamford Bridge. If they deliver a similar performance on Wednesday, they may leave themselves with too much to do in the second leg. That said, they have the players to threaten on the counter-attack. Alexis Sanchez has been one of the best players in the Premier League this season and he will want to prove that in Europe. I think Bayern will win, but Arsenal will get a vital away goal.
Scoreline prediction: Bayern Munich 2-1 Arsenal