It’s the Round of Sixteen and despite winning their group, Arsenal face one of the favourites to win this season’s Champions League.
The last time the Gunners progressed to the quarter-finals was 2009/10. Since then, they have been undone in the first leg, losing by a tie-deciding margin. There have been some heroic comebacks in the second legs but Bayern (twice), Barcelona, Monaco and AC Milan have all eventually knocked them out.
Can they achieve the unexpected this season? It doesn’t augur well for them on current form but this is knockout football and the Gunners may yet deliver a sucker punch.
It’s business as usual in Bavaria; Bayern are unbeaten in fourteen, winning all but one, and they are now seven points clear of the upstarts RB Leipzig. The talk of a crisis after the back-to-back defeats in Dortmund and Rostov seems a long time ago.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side goes into the game with few major injury concerns. Franck Ribery looks set to miss out but the Italian seemed prepared for that, keeping Arjen Robben and Douglas Costa’s involvement in Saturday’s 2 – 0 win at Ingolstadt to less than thirty minutes each.
The biggest question is whether Thomas Muller starts. Once the golden child for club and country, his star is waning at the moment with much speculation that he will move to Old Trafford this summer, as a replacement for Wayne Rooney.
It seems however that Thiago Alcantara will get the nod from Ancelotti, with the Spanish international in contention for the Player of the Season with his performances so far. Muller has struggled in recent weeks. Despite this, he has two assists and a goal in his last three appearances.
Confidence is never in short supply in the Munich ranks, with both Ribery and Mats Hummels predicting that they will triumph, quite comfortably. Whether that arrogance will come back to haunt them remains to be seen.
Having won their group, Arsenal probably hoped for a good draw in the Round of Sixteen. It didn’t happen but at least the money men will be happy with the attraction of Bayern Munich sure to draw a sell-out crowd to the Emirates for the second leg.
Much depends on whether Arsenal are still in the tie by that point. Since losing to Barcelona in the quarter-finals in 2009/10, they have been routinely humiliated in the first leg by Europe’s great and good, as well as Monaco and Milan.
This match has come a month too late for Arsenal. Recent defeats at home to Watford and at Chelsea have knocked the stuffing out of their season, drowning in recriminations against manager Arsene Wenger. The performances in both matches were average at best – dreadful is a better description of the Watford game – with very little confidence restored in the 2 – 0 win over Hull City at the weekend.
Wenger can call on Granit Xhaka for this match and there’s a choice to make between the tigerish Francis Coquelin or the more cerebral play of Mohammed Elneny alongside him. Certainly, any clash between Coquelin and Arturo Vidal is going to be feisty, which may influence the manager’s thinking.
Danny Welbeck made a fine return to the team at Southampton and including him on the left ahead of the mercurial Alex Iwobi offers more of a goal threat on the counter-attack, with the England international forming a pacey attacking triumvirate with Theo Walcott on the right and Alexis Sanchez in the middle.
It will take a monumental effort for the Gunners to come away with even a draw from this match. Last season’s 1 – 5 drubbing is certainly a spur for winning the game but there is a distinct possibility of it being repeated if Arsenal are anywhere below their best.
FORM (Last six games)
Bayern Munich - WWWDWW
Arsenal - WWWLLW
- Bayern have won their last 15 home games, a Champions League record.
- Arsenal have never knocked a German club out of the Champions League.
- Arsenal’s last three Champions League games have featured +3.5 goals.
- Four of the last five meetings between the two sides have featured -2.5 goals.
- Arsenal were unbeaten in the group for the first time since 2005/06.
CURRENT MATCH ODDS (BEST PRICED ODDS)
HEAD TO HEAD
Bayern wins: 5
Arsenal wins: 2
04/11/2015 CL Bayern Munich 5 – 1 Arsenal
20/10/2015 CL Arsenal 2 – 0 Bayern Munich
11/03/2014 CL Bayern Munich 1 – 1 Arsenal
19/02/2014 CL Arsenal 0 – 2 Bayern Munich
13/03/2013 CL Bayern Munich 0 – 2 Arsenal
19/02/2013 CL Arsenal 1 – 3 Bayern Munich
Recommended Champions League Betting Offer: Betting on Bayern Munich vs Arsenal? Claim this Bayern vs Arsenal betting bonus from bet365!
Such is Bayern’s supremacy in the Bundesliga that it’s hard to look for clues in their domestic form. It’s rare that it is anything other than very good. Arsenal’s woes in the Premier League are a better indicator of how this match may turn out.
The 1 – 3 reverse at Chelsea exposed the naivety of Arsenal’s play in the big games, with a poorly coordinated defence leaving the north London outfit at the mercy of Chelsea’s incisive counter-attack. Bayern are no less ruthless and Arsene Wenger’s team will be hard-pushed to keep a clean sheet in this fixture.
Bayern aren’t invincible but the Gunners target for this match must be to keep themselves in touch for the second leg. Anything more than a two-goal defeat will see them on the way out of the competition in what may be Arsene Wenger’s last tilt at winning the Champions League with them.
It’s vital that Arsenal retain possession when they have the ball. In the Premier League, they are used to dominating the ball but on this occasion, it is likely to be with Bayern more often than not. Wenger has set his side to sit deep in other big matches and Arsenal have scored late goals at Manchester United, PSG and Chelsea; Bayern will need to be on their guard if they want to keep a clean sheet.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 3 – 1 Arsenal at 11/1 (William Hill – Bet Here!)
MY RECOMMENDED BETS
Francois is one of Howtobet4free’s co-founders and has written many of Howtobet4free’s popular Betting Guides. Francois also helps run the @howtobet4free_ Twitter account