There’s something a bit too predictable about how the first legs went in the Champions League round of 16, and both Arsenal and AC Milan will try to change that as they travel to play teams that are better than them – Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid, who look confident and simply good enough to make it into the quarterfinals.
Atletico carry a 1-0 lead from the first match thanks to a late goal at the San Siro. They’ve still not lost a match this season in the competition, just like their city rivals Real Madrid, and have won all three home matches by a 9-1 scoreline. Now AC Milan are a big name, but not a very good team at the moment. Things have gotten better since Clarence Seedorf has arrived, but the bottom line is that they’re not going to think about relegation anymore, but their chances of making it in Europe aren’t looking too bright.
A big problem for Milan is Montolivo not being able to play, which gives them an unbalanced midfied, with Kaka and Taarabt on one end, while Michael Essien and Nigel de Jong, not the most creative of players, as defensive midfielders. Who connects the dots? Maybe Poli, but unlikely.
Atletico are back in winning form after a few rough matches, but it seems that their derby draw and performance gave them the right kind of jolt. We won’t see great football, but unlike the first match, there will be plenty of initiative from the home side early on to try and finish this encounter early with a goal or two before going back to trusting their defense.
In Germany, Bayern Munich remember what happened last year. After a 3-1 win in London came a complacent performance and a 2-0 win for Arsenal, almost derailing that Champions League title run very soon. But this Bayern team might be even better. They won’t be playing with Mario Gotze, probably, but Franck Ribery is back. So we might not see a false ‘9’ kind of formation (maybe with Muller), but there’s plenty for Arsenal to be worried about.
The Gunners think about their win this season at Dortmund, their win last year in Munich, and Arsene Wenger believes it’s possible. No Wilshere, no Ramsey, no Wojciech Szczesny. Their defense can hold out and keep their goalkeeper from harm, at least for a while, but it’ll be up to their midfield to get some possession and release some pressure.
The key players for Arsenal will obviously be Ozil, who has been shaky for quite some time in his performances, and alongside him Mikel Arteta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. A good match from this trio might give Arsenal a chance in what seems like a Mission Impossible scenario.