Last updated February 18th, 2014
Arsenal will expect a difficult match when they host Bayern Munich at the Emirates on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie (19:45 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
The Gunners come into the fixture in fine form on the back of a 2-1 win over Liverpool in the FA Cup on Sunday. They have generally enjoyed a very good season and are just one point behind Premier League leaders Chelsea with 56 points from 17 wins, five draws and four defeats.
Arsene Wenger’s side progressed to the Champions League knockout stages after finishing level on points with Borussia Dortmund and Napoli at the top of Group F, qualifying ahead of the latter by virtue of having the second-best head-to-head record in matches between the trio. They are looking to end a run of three consecutive eliminations at the round of 16 stage.
Sunday’s win over Liverpool was far from a classic performance, with Arsenal grateful to goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski for a string of excellent saves to keep the visitors out, but Wenger will have taken encouragement from the determination displayed by his side and from the performance of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (pictured), who provided a goal and an assist.
With Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott injured and Mezut Ozil and Olivier Giroud failing to maintain their strong early-season form, Wenger needs players such as the recently returned Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sunday’s other scorer Lukas Podolski to step up to the plate. Arsenal have a solid defensive unit, but need goals to continue fighting for honours.
Wenger was able to rest a number of his regular first team players against Liverpool, with Bacary Sagna, Jack Wilshere, Giroud, Santiago Cazorla and Wojciech Szczesny all likely to return to the starting 11 for this match. Abou Diaby (knee), Kim Kallstrom (back), Ramsey (thigh) and Walcott (knee) will all miss out, while Thomas Vermaelen (calf) is doubtful.
Bayern Munich come into Wednesday’s match on the back of six consecutive victories and just two defeats in 35 matches across the seven competitions they have been involved in so far this season. They lead the Bundesliga, 16 points clear of Bayer Leverkusen in second, with 59 points from 19 wins, two draws and no defeats.
The Champions League holders comfortably advanced to the knockout stages by topping Group D with five wins and one defeat. They have been involved in three of the last four Champions League finals and their dominant performances this season make them worthy bookies’ favourites this time around. They are at a best price of 13/5 in the Champions League Betting Odds.
Josep Guardiola was given the unenviable task of matching last season’s bumper trophy haul when he replaced the retired Juup Heynckes last summer, but the former Barcelona coach has taken well to the challenge, leading Bayern to an improved points per match ratio (2.68 to 2.81) while implementing formational and stylistic tweaks.
Bayern have greatly increased their average share of possession from 63.6% to 70.4% and although they are not quite as efficient in the final third as they were under the more counter-attack minded Heynckes, do now exercise more control over matches. Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery, Mario Goetze, Mario Mandzukic and Thomas Muller still provide plenty of goal threat.
Guardiola will definitely be without the injured Ribery (buttocks) for this match, but Bastian Schweinsteiger (ankle) could be involved after two substitute appearances in the last week following three months on the sidelines. Mandzukic is likely to return to the starting lineup after missing Saturday’s victory over Freiburg through suspension.
Arsenal v Bayern Munich Betting Tips
These sides met at the same stage of last year’s competition, with Bayern progressing on away goals following a 3-1 victory at the Emirates and a 2-0 defeat in Munich. Bayern were also victorious when they met in the round of 16 in 2005 and topped their group ahead of Arsenal following a victory and a draw in the second group stage of 2001.
The Gunners have wobbled a little in recent weeks on the back of injuries to some key players and below par performances from others. They have had a difficult recent schedule, but while Sunday’s win will have boosted morale they do look short of the level they reached in 10 and seven match winning streaks earlier in the season.
Bayern Munich, by contrast, have been supreme over the last couple of months, winning nine consecutive matches in all competitions, scoring 28 goals and conceding just two. Ribery aside, all of Guardiola’s first choice players are available and with a coherent, polished style and plenty of good and varied options on the bench, Bayern are the most likely winners.
- Back Bayern Munich to win @ 4/5 with BetVictor or Ladbrokes.
- Bayern were quick out of the gate in last year’s meeting between the sides at the Emirates, going two up within 21 minutes. They scored before the half hour mark in five of their six group stage matches and will look to make an early impression again on Wednesday. Bet on Bayern Munich’s first goal to come between 0-30 minutes @ 5/4 with William Hill.