Two clubs that are each arriving in a completely different mood to their knockout stage clash. Arsenal, struggling in the Premier League, with a manager who isn’t handling the pressure all too well, and Bayern Munich, who aren’t just winning every match they play in, but have yet to concede a goal in 2013.
But we’ll begin with the hosts, who at least have a few numbers to look at and cheer up about. The Gunners have only lost two of their 17 knockout games at home in the Champions League (Chelsea in 2004 and Manchester United in 2009), but did lose at home in the group stage this season to Schalke. Arsenal are fifth in the Premier League so far this season, four points beneath a Champions League spot, and finding solace in the Champions League is probably the only thing they have left.
One thing about Arsenal this season, especially in the Champions League, is their efficiency. Arsenal had the fewest shots in this season’s group stages among the 16 teams qualified for the knockout phase (47). However, they were the most efficient, scoring every 4.7 shots. Olivier Giroud may struggle with his scoring, but he is definitely helping others score with 4 assists in the group stage. Lukas Podolski scored three goals in the group stage on only 3 shots at goal. And still, the match depends on the industrious Jack Wilshere and his motor. Easy for Bayern to target.
For Bayern Munich, it’s been easy, too easy this season. They’ve won their last six matches without conceding a goal, with a total goal difference of 15-0. Their only Champions League mishap was that weird loss to BATE, which proved to be a case of bad luck, nothing more. After relying heavily on Arjen Robben in previous years, their variety and depth on offense, with the improving Toni Kroos, the fantastic Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller and the very talented Mario Mandzukic make them look like one of the top two-three teams in Europe once again.
Bayern are missing Jerome Boateng and Hogler Badstubger, but Manuel Neuer has been kept out of trouble in quite some time, with Dante emerging as the leading centre back for the team this season.
Prediction – Arsenal find it hard to create chances, but will certainly be fired up to come up from the depths of another disappointing defeat. The problem? Bayern are too deep and too talented of a team for them at the moment. Unless it’s a huge day from Theo Walcott, Bayern won’t lose this one, coming out of the Emirates with a draw (and away goals) at the least. The fact that Arsenal don’t have a left back and Laurent Koscielny is playing in the middle of defense bodes ill for their chances to keep a clean net.
Projected lineups: Arsenal – Szczesny, Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Sagna; Arteta, Wilshere, Podolski, Cazorla, Walcott; Giroud. Bayern – Neuer, Lahm, Van Buyten, Dante, Alaba; Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Muller, Kroos, Ribery; Mandzukic.