The FourFourTwo Preview: Arsenal vs Bayern Munich
Premier League vs Europe's All-Stars, Part Two. After Manchester City's clash with Barcelona, it's time for English football's other determinedly creative outfit to face what used to be known as a crack European side.
- Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool (Cup)
- Arsenal 0-0 Man Utd (Lge)
- Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal (Lge)
- Arsenal 2-0 Palace (Lge)
- So'ton 2-2 Arsenal (Lge)
- Bayern 4-0 Freiburg (Lge)
- Hamburg 0-5 Bayern (Cup)
- Nuremburg 0-2 Bayern (Lge)
- Bayern 5-0 Frankfurt (Lge)
- Stuttgart 1-2 Bayern (Lge)
In fact, Bayern Munich are the best of them all, if we go by the simple yardstick of competition ownership. The Club World Cup and Champions League holders are currently 16 points clear atop the Bundesliga, having won 19 of their 21 league games (and drawn the other two) while scoring 57 and conceding just 9; they get more wins, goals and points per game than any of the teams topping Europe's other major leagues.
They're scarcely any less effective in continental competition, either, winning their first five group games (15 goals scored, 2 conceded) to seal qualification with two games to spare. And they like coming to England: it's where they won the trophy last May, three months after steaming to a 3-1 win at the Emirates and four months before doing the same at the Etihad. Furthermore, Arsenal have lost to their last three German guests.
So is it a hopeless cause for Arsene Wenger's men? Not at all: they have proven that they can beat Bayern, having done so 2-0 in Munich last year to lose their last 16 clash only on away goals. Indeed, it's worth noting for the return leg in three weeks' time that Bayern have a weakness at home to the English – Man City and Chelsea have also triumphed at the Allianz Arena.
Moreover, this season's Gunners are a much better side: at this point last year they were 18 points off the title pace. One of the differences has been Mesut Ozil, and the German could pick no better fixture to silence those who say he doesn't impose himself on the big games.
As they come to the end of their Fortnight of Destiny, Arsenal have been thrashed at Anfield, held fairly comfortably by Manchester United and slightly fortuitous to gain revenge on Liverpool in the FA Cup. They're still chasing the Treble, and a good display against the Bavarians wouldn't half inspire confidence.
Player to watch: Thomas Muller (Bayern)
Rather than play into the meaty paws of Arsenal's enormocentreback Per Mertesacker by wheeling out Mario Mandzukic for a physical confrontation, Pep may opt for a strikerless formation. That might mean Mario Gotze, but Arsenal should (also) beware Muller, whether he's played as a false nine, an attacking midfielder or a winger. Although he hasn't scored in his last five games, he did so on his last visit to the Emirates, and Arsenal's defence have looked susceptible to direct running in recent struggles against Suarez, Sturridge and their ilk.
Guardiola and Wenger have a complimentary relationship: they have often spoken highly of each other, while each man has been tipped to replace the other at Arsenal or Barcelona. This will be the seventh time they have faced off, all in the Champions League. In autumn 1999 Pep played against Arsenal twice in the groups, laying on Barça's fourth goal at Wembley. In spring 2010's quarter-final Leo Messi's four-goal Camp Nou haul helped them to a 6-3 aggregate win, and in spring 2011's last 16 clash his Blaugrana team won 4-3 on aggregate despite losing the first leg 2-1 in London – Wenger's only win thus far against the Catalan.
Facts and figures
- This is the third time that Arsenal and Bayern are meeting in the last 16 of the Champions League. The Bavarian club have progressed both times (2004/05 and 2012/13).
- Arsenal have lost their last 3 home games against German clubs in the Champions League (Schalke and Bayern last season, Dortmund this season).
- Bayern have won their last 2 away games against English teams in the Champions League, both with a 3-1 scoreline (Arsenal and Man City).
- Arsenal are the last team to keep a clean sheet against Bayern in the Champions League, when the Gunners won 2-0 at the Allianz Arena in March 2013.
- The Bavarians have also won their last 7 Champions League games played outside the Allianz Arena.
- Bayern have had the most shots on target in the Champions League this season: 54 (35 more than Arsenal with 19).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
A pivotal game in Arsenal's season – a win would be an enormous statement, a loss devastating – but also their hardest game yet… and they haven't excelled in the big tests. 3-1 Bayern.
MILAN VS ATLETICO
- Milan have been knocked out in each of their last four Champions League knockout ties against Spanish teams.
- Atletico have won their last three competitive encounters with Italian teams in all competitions (8 goals for, 1 against).
Meanwhile, on Screen Two…
While northern Europe watches the Emirates, all eyes in Italy and Spain (well, maybe not Pep-obsessed Catalonia) will be on the San Siro for Milan vs Atletico Madrid. It's a fascinating fixture between the fading force and the coming men: formerly unimpeachable Milan are way off the pace in Serie A, erstwhile joke club Atletico joint top of La Liga.
Seven-time Eurochamps Milan may have replaced Massimiliano Allegri with Clarence Seedorf, and hired the ever-watchable Mario Balotelli, but they can expect a tough time from Atletico.
Diego Simeone has transformed the previously mocked Rojiblancos into an extremely hard-running, dangerous pack, and they'll thrive on the atmosphere at one of Europe's most famous grounds.