Arsenal v Bayern Munich Champions League preview – as Arsene Wenger’s team look to restore lost pride
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With the team having a large deficit to overcome against Bayern Munich in the Champions League tonight, as well as a real fight to maintain their top four status, with their star striker benched on Saturday, fan protests arranged before kick off, as well as reports of some supporters boycotting the game, Arsenal and Arsene Wenger are feeling the pressure like never before.
When the manager and players of your opponents - in what is normally a cut-throat competition – express nothing but sympathy and pity for the manager’s plight then you know something is not quite right.
With reports refusing to subside of Alexis Sanchez being unhappy at the club, and a number of suitors monitoring the situation eagerly, when the number one goalkeeper expresses frustration at not being picked for European matches, and a considerable number of fans and pundits insisting the squad lacks leaders - a convincing win tonight would go a small way to easing the intensity that has built up over since the crushing defeats to Watford and Chelsea ended any thoughts of a title bid.
The humiliating 5-1 defeat at the Allianz Arena three weeks ago served to illustrate just how far the gap is between the top teams in the Champions League – and where Arsenal need to be.
Of course no-one is suggesting a miracle tonight – they simply don’t happen like that – not when a single club in the history of the competition has progressed in a Champions League knockout tie after losing the first leg by four or more goals.
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Arsenal may have lost just 10 of their 62 home games in the Champions League since 2003/04 - however, six of those defeats have come in the knockout stages.
Indeed, four of Arsenal’s last six Champions League defeats at the Emirates have come in the last 16, with two of those losses coming at the hands of Bayern Munich in 2013 and 2014.
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The head to head results to not offer consolation either - this is the 12th meeting between these sides in the Champions League, Bayern have won six of the previous 11 games with Arsenal winning three.
The German side may have won just one of their last six Champions League away games - losing three and drawing twice in that run – but all three losses came by a single goal.
Speaking last night Carlo Ancelotti said: “We know we will face a tough game. Arsenal will come at us early and we will have to show concentration. But we will not change our style. I have a lot of respect for Arsene Wenger and a man and a manager and he has the experience to manage the moment and the situation.”
Meanwhile Wenger demanded a ‘lucid rage’ from his players in an attempt to win back some lost pride.
He said: “Total commitment – but not a silly one, because you have to make intelligent decisions – and for that you need good combination of commitment but you also have to keep your vision.”
Referring to the problems he has had in training with Sanchez, he added: “Sometimes he has excessive behaviours – and I think when things don’t go well it can be interpreted negatively.”
In early team news Ancelotti confirmed world class goalkeeper will play ‘100 per cent’ despite missing his team’s training session at the Emirates last night with a small back complaint. He also confirmed Brazilian Rafinha will play at right back.
Wenger confirmed he and Sanchez shook hands and the Chilean is expected to play tonight. Along with cup keeper DAvid Ospina, despite shipping five goals in Germany. Mesut Ozil has had flu and is not expected to be fit for tonight’s game.