A lowly Arsenal will have nothing to fight for except pride when they host Bayern Munich tonight in the UEFA Champions League second-leg at the Emirates. The Gunners were humiliated 5-1 at the Allianz Arena three weeks ago and the margin of defeat has all but confirmed yet another embarrassing exit in the Round of 16 stage for the seventh season running.
As much as the Gunners were in a self-destruction mode, credit must be given to the Bavarians as well who were stupendous on the night with midfielder Thiago Alcantara running the show. The remaining 90 minutes to be played at the Emirates are nothing but a mere formality for the visitors to see through as they seek to book a place for themselves in the quarter-finals for a straight sixth season in the competition.
This will be the 12th meeting between the familiar foes. Bayern leads the head-to-head with 6 wins to Arsenal's 3 but it was the Gunners who won the corresponding group stage fixture last campaign with goals from Olivier Giroud and Mesut Özil.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE THAN RESULT FOR ARSENAL NOW
The 5-1 scoreline may give an impression that it was all Bayern dominance throughout the 90 minutes but it wasn't the case. The Gunners gave a good account of themselves in the first 50 minutes of the match but after a forced substitution of Laurent Koscielny due to a leg problem, they were no match for the hosts for the remaining 40 minutes during which they conceded not once, not twice but four times. The manner in which Arsenal capitulated was exasperating to say the least and they could have grinded out a favourable outcome given Bayern weren't anywhere near their best. But these if's and but's count for nothing now with the tie already a foregone conclusion.
No team in the history of the competition has turned around a four-goal deficit in the first leg to progress further into the knockouts. And the Londoners' current state of affairs doesn't provide even a glimmer of hope of them producing the greatest comeback of all time. With the latest defeat to Liverpool, Arsenal have now lost four of their last six matches across all competitions and the reverse fixture should now be all about putting up a fight to restore some much-needed confidence. The result won't matter much unless they win by four clear goals but a good display tonight will certainly do a world of good to Arsenal's fragile confidence. The Gunners need to stop the rot and get their act together as they embrace the business end of the season and this match could well be one step in that direction.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) March 7, 2017
ARSENAL TEAM NEWS
Underfire playmaker Mesut Özil hasn't yet physically recovered from illness and would be sidelined alongside Santi Cazorla (achilles tendon) and Mohamed Elneny (ankle). Alex Iwobi and Granit Xhaka have been far from impressive in the past month, which could see the duo dropped in favour of Aaron Ramsey and Lucas Perez with the former potentially going to play in the hole. This could allow Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to partner Francis Coquelin in midfield while Theo Walcott occupies the right wing. Despite the accusations of a worsening relationship, Arsene Wenger could be still persisting with Alexis Sanchez to lead the line.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) March 6, 2017
BUZZING BAYERN AIM TO END THEIR SEARCH OF AN AWAY WIN IN THE KNOCKOUTS
The Reds truly have a foot-and-a-half into the quarter-finals and having conceded 20 times in the league and Europe combined in 30 matches so far, it would be akin to playing with fire if someone is to predict a four-goal margin win for the Gunners. Bayern under Carlo Ancelotti haven't taken off the way many expected but are still grinding out impressive results, just like they did away at FC Köln last weekend where the 3-0 scoreline flattered as Köln gave them a run for their money. High on spirits, they take on an underwhelming Arsenal who are still reeling from the after-effects of that devastating first-leg defeat.
And the game provides the Bavarians with a great chance to end their 8-match winless run in the knockout stages on the road. Bayern last won an away game in the knockouts three years ago against the very opponent they are going to face tonight. Second-half goals from Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller led 'FC Hollywood' to a crucial win over 10-man Arsenal who were denied a great opportunity to take the lead on the night as Manuel Neuer saved a first-half penalty by compatriot Mesut Özil. A win here won't only help them seal progression but also take the monkey off the back of struggling on their trips during the latter stages of the competition. A win here could well set the wheels in motion for Bayern's 6th triumph in Europe's elite club competition and in the process, giving soon-to-retire Philipp Lahm a perfect send off.
— Carlo Ancelotti (@MrAncelotti) March 6, 2017
BAYERN MUNICH TEAM NEWS
Captain Philipp Lahm will miss the return leg owing to an accumulation of three yellow cards in the competition and should be replaced by his understudy Rafinha. Jerome Boateng (shoulder) is far from match ready while Renato Sanches (cold) is also expected to miss the game. Winger Douglas Costa picked up a leg injury in Bayern's 3-0 win over FC Köln last weekend and his place could be taken by Franck Ribery which would be the only change from the eleven that triumphed in the first-leg.
— FC Bayern US (@FCBayernUS) March 6, 2017
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Bellerin, Koscielny(C), Mustafi, Monreal; Coquelin, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, Ramsey, Perez; Sanchez
Bayern Munich (4-2-3-1): Neuer(C); Rafinha, Martinez, Hummels, Alaba; Alonso, Vidal; Robben, Thiago, Ribery; Lewandowski
PLAYER TO WATCH OUT:
Thiago has finally come of age under Ancelotti and his display in the first-leg was a testament to it where he chipped in with a brace and an assist. The Spaniard could be causing more troubles to the faltering Gunners tonight as well.
Arsenal 1-2 Bayern Munich
The Bavarians may not be at their convincing best this season but looking at Arsenal's lack of form and confidence, it shouldn't come as a surprise if the German outfit is to end their 3-year long wait for a knockout stage win tonight at the Emirates.
Live on TEN 2 on Wednesday, 8 March at 01:15 IST.