[UEFA Champions League] Last year's runner-up Bayern Munich will be at the Emirates on Tuesday facing Arsenal in the round of 16, and the German team looks poised for another deep run.
TV: Arsenal-Bayern Munich (Tuesday 2:45 pm ET, Fox Soccer)
German Goliath: Bayern Munich sits 15 points clear of two-time defending Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund with 12 games to play. Bayern has scored 57 league goals, allowed just 7, and hasn’t conceded any since Dec 14, or lost anywhere since Oct 28.
Franck Ribery is elite once more, Thomas Muller is flying, while Germany’s second leading scorer last season can’t even crack the starting 11, with Mario Gomez giving way to versatile newcomerMario Mandzukic, highly regarded Javier Martinez, 24, winger Xherdan Shaqiri, 21, and Dante in defense, are also new.
The Bavarian team invading London is the most dominant version in years, superior to Arsenal in nearly every respect, and somehow still under the radar. Apparently losing in two of the last three UCL finals means ignoring the German elephant in the room, a luxury Arsenal fans can’t afford.
A puncher’s chance: Arsene Wenger will never be confused with a pugilist but his Gunners do have three players possessing enough knockout power to upset the German heavyweight.
Ambidextrous Spaniard Santi Cazorla’s unorthodox creativity changes games while two of his counterparts shone brighter than anyone in England’s recent win over Brazil at Wembley. Jack Wilshere, 21, named man of the match for bossing the midfield, and Theo Walcott, 23, whose blazing speed gave the Selecao fits.
Master of the obvious: “Eight years without a trophy is a very, very long time.” Bayern's Arjen Robben on Arsenal.
The Skinny: A huge underdog fresh off an embarrassing FA Cup loss to Championship club Blackburn, expectations couldn’t be lower in London, so Arsenal can only exceed them.
Having sewn up the Bundesliga with a third of its season remaining, a poor result would fester for Bayern as Munich’s pundits will spend an inordinate amount of time discussing the March 13 second-leg.
The Bavarian club leaving London with a loss, and the pressure that entails, seems Arsenal’s only hope to advance. While a dominant display by Bayern will hastens calls for Wenger’s exit -- and is to be expected.
Notes: Bayern’s biggest win all season came off the field, inking Pep Guardiola, who begins coaching next season. … Bayern was just 1-1-1 on the road in group play, including a 3-1 loss at BATE Borisov… Bayern defender Jerome Boateng is suspended for both legs … Former Bayern player Lukas Podolski leads Arsenal with three UCL goals while nine different players have scored for Bayern. ... Arsenal is 40/1 to win the UCL. ... Bayern at 6/1, is now second favorite alongside Real Madrid, after its draw with Man U ...