Arsenal welcome Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich to the Emirates stadium in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie tonight. The Gunners, who lost to Blackburn Rovers at the weekend, will try to put the FA Cup disappointment behind them and look to pull off a major upset of their own against one of the tournament favourites. On the other hand, Bayern will be confident of their chances, having already seen fellow German side Schalke get the better of Arsene Wenger's men at the Emirates in the group stages of the competition.
Where to Watch Live
Kick-off is set for 7.45pm GMT, with ITV 1, ITV HD, UTV and Sky Sports Events Centre providing live coverage in the UK.
Wenger was at his most aggressive self in the pre-match press conference, insisting his team are good enough to defeat Bayern and urged them to prove him right when they take the field, in what will probably be their biggest chance for redemption this season. The Gunners have failed to live up to the expectations yet again this season, spurning any chance they had of ending their trophy drought which has entered its eighth year.
The north London outfit are currently 21 points behind league leaders Manchester United but the fact that riles Arsenal fans is the way in which the club made an exit from other domestic tournaments; the League Cup and the FA Cup. The Gunners bowed out of the League Cup in December by losing to League Two side Bradford in the quarter finals and now followed it up with a loss at the hands of Championship club Blackburn in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday.
Wenger has refused to strengthen his side's obvious deficiencies in the January transfer window and is now left with lack of options in attack, with Olivier Giroud failing to tick the boxes of what is expected of a forward playing for a club in the stature of Arsenal. The team's lack of cutting edge was obvious in their last three matches, with the Gunners scoring only two goals from a myriad of chances created by the likes of Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla in the final third. However, such profligacy in front of goal against the Bundesliga leaders would be fatal.
Bayern have the edge over Arsenal in head-to-head in the Champions League, with the Gunners managing to win only once in their last four top flight meetings. The last time these two teams met was in the round of 16 during the 2004-05 season, where the Germans triumphed 3-2. Bayern are currently 15 points ahead of reigning Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund at the top of the table and have won five games on the trot in all competitions ahead of this fixture. The Germans are also on an 18-match unbeaten streak and are clear favourites against an under confident Arsenal side, who failed to find the back of the net against a Championship side on Saturday.
The Germans will be hard to stop given the fire power at their disposal, with Croatian Mario Mandzukic in rampart form this season, scoring 15 goals. In addition, Thomas Mueller, Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger are all capable of finding the net and will fancy a go at Arsenal's leaky defence, who have already let in 29 goals this season, compared to the seven conceded by the Germans.
Bayern have kept 16 clean sheets this season and have scored 13 and conceded none in their last five games in all competitions. Statistics and current form hold the Germans favourites to progress into the next round but as Champions League history suggests, form is not a definitive guide to success in Europe's most prestigious competition, with Chelsea's incredible win in last year's final at Allianz Arena serving as a big example.
- Last Five Games(all competitions, most recent first): L W W D W
- Last Match: Arsenal 0-1 Blackburn Rovers
- Last Five Games(all competitions, most recent first): W W W W W
- Last Match: Wolfsburg 0-2 Bayern Munich
Arsenal: Wenger has only Kieran Gibbs out for the clash, with the defender nursing a thigh injury. But the club find themselves short at the left-back role, with Andre Santos out on loan and Nacho Monreal ineligible. Thomas Vermaelen is expected to feature in that role, while Laurent Koscielny is a doubt with a calf injury.
Probable Line-up: Szczesny; Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen; Arteta, Wilshere; Walcott, Cazorla, Podolski; Giroud
Bayern Munich: Claudio Pizarro (illness) and Holger Badstuber (knee) are out for the visitors, while Javi Martinez is expected to return after missing out against Wolfsburg with a toe injury. But Jerome Boateng is suspended for the game.
Probable Line-up: Neuer; Lahm, van Buyten, Dante, Alaba; Martinez, Schweinsteiger; Muller, Kroos, Ribery; Mandzukic