UCL Preview: Arsenal Look For Same Result In Munich, But Different Outcome, Atletico Madrid Looks To Reach Quarters For First Time Since ’97

IMAGE, ARSENAL.COM

By MATTHEW LEVINE
Staff Writer

For a second year in a row, Arsenal are looking to overturn a deficit to Bayern Munich in the round of 16 of the Champions League.

Last season, the Gunners traveled to Munich and got a 2-0 win, but still exited the competition due to away goals (3-1 loss at the Emirates in first leg). If the Gunners can get the same result this time, they will knock the German giants out.

Olivier Giroud came off the bench at the weekend in the FA Cup with eyes surely on the match with Bayern. He ended up with two goals in a half hour’s worth of action. In the Allianz Arena, the Frenchman will have to hold the ball up well and be as clinical in the box as he was at the weekend. At times in the past, Giroud has gone missing in the big games, but he will have to make his presence felt in order for Arsenal to leave Munich with the result needed.

Arsenal will also need a strong performance from the back line and number two goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski. The Polish keeper replaces his countrymen Wojciech Szczesny, who picked up a red card in the first leg of the tie. Arsenal can ill afford to give up any goals to make their task more daunting than it is. The Gunners will miss the presence of Kieran Gibbs who suffered an injury in their FA Cup match. Thomas Vermaelen may be in line for a start at left back with Laurent Koscielny fit and sure to take up his usual place in the center of defense.

Bayern have been completely dominant in the Bundesliga and it showed again in their weekend fixture with a 6-1 victory over Wolfsburg. The German club is on top form and will be even stronger than they were in their 2-0 victory in London. Franck Ribery started and played the full match for Munich at the weekend. Xerdan Shaqiri will also be available after missing the first leg.

The Bundesliga leaders don’t have the incentive to push too many players forward and may look to hit Arsenal, who must push for goals, on the counter. If Bayern set up this way, they have players that can punish Arsenal in just that way. Ribery and Arjen Robben will be a handful on the wings. If Vermaelen is at left back, Bayern will want to look to test him early on, especially with his lack of game time this season.

However, if Bayern look to “park the bus,” they will need to be careful. Playing that way always invites pressure and could allow Arsenal to get back in the game. With a myriad of attacking talent at the club, Pep Guardiola may feel attacking is the best defense.

Other Champions League Fixtures

1. Atletico Madrid Eyes Quarterfinal Spot For First Time Since 1997– Atletico is having a fantastic season domestically and on the European stage so far. Only trailing Real Madrid in La Liga by three points, Atletico has a 1-0 advantage over AC Milan as the tie moves back to Spain.

Diego Costa’s late goal gave Atletico an away goal boost heading into the second leg. He will again be the danger man up top for the Spanish club. Thibault Courtois‘ performance in the Atleti net will also be crucial if the club is to reach their deepest run in the competition in 17 years.

Milan will look to Mario Balotelli, who returned this past weekend from injury, to put the Atletico back line under pressure. The Italian striker has produced magical moments in the past and Milan will need another in order to advance. Another key player for Milan will be Kaka. The Brazilian midfielder looked lively and nearly scored in the first leg.

Milan continues to struggle in Serie A, but will have to put those troubles aside. The Vicente Calderon isn’t an easy place to play, especially trailing by a goal. It is certainly not out of question, but the Italian side will need to find a gear they’ve not hit too often this campaign.