UEFA Champs League |
Preview: Bayern v Arsenal
Gunners have to defy odds
With the English Premiership title seemingly out of reach Arsenal turn their attention to the Champions League on Tuesday hoping to gain the upper hand over German leaders Bayern Munich in the first leg of the last sixteen duel at the Olympic Stadium.
English champions Arsenal lie 11 points behind London rivals Chelsea on the domestic scene but winning the Champions League for the first time in their history would more than compensate for surrendering their English crown.
"I think it is so important for us to do well in the Champions League," explained Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. "It does not matter that we are not top of the Premiership - the motivation is still there."
After reaching the quarter-finals last season, before being eliminated by Chelsea, Wenger is determined for his cosmopolitan collection of stars to collect the one main trophy missing from the cabinet.
However, Bayern represent a tough obstacle to overcome with the 2001 victors top of the Bundesliga and starting to look the part in Europe after some indifferent displays over the past three seasons.
"Bayern have a wealth of experience in the Champions League and have been crowned European champions four times," acknowledged Wenger. "They will be a very difficult team to play against."
Indeed Bayern used home advantage to crush Borussia Dortmund 5-0 on Saturday with Dutch international Roy Makaay scoring a superb hat-trick.
"This was a good win but we need to raise our game against Arsenal," confessed Bayern manager Felix Magath. "We know they are in good shape but are still confident of winning at home."
German international captain Michael Ballack, who has been unable to train all week due to muscular problems, is the only doubt for Bayern with Magath having all of his big guns available for Arsenal.
The goalkeeping duel between German internationals Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann has been the talk of the domestic media with the duo - who are far from good friends - rivals for the German number one jersey.
"Everyone seems to be talking about the duel between myself and Jens Lehmann," admitted Bayern custodian Kahn. "But there are 20 other people playing in this game too."
Frenchman Wenger has injury problems to negotiate with England international Sol Campbell definitely sidelined due to an ankle injury and his international team-mate Ashley Cole also doubtful with the flu.
Brazilian midfielder Edu is recovering from a hamstring injury and is rated at 50-50 to be fit in time for Tuesday.
Arsenal laboured to a 1-1 draw with Sheffield United in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday and know defeating Bayern on their own patch is a mammoth task.
The last time an English team defeated Bayern at the Olympic Stadium was back in the 1993/94 season when unfashionable Norwich City won 2-1 in the second round of the UEFA Cup.
Arsenal also have a poor record in Germany failing to win any of their last three Champions League matches in Schalke 04, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund.
Bayern also have the psychological strangehold over Arsenal having won 1-0 in Munich the last time the two met in the 2000/01 Champions League campaign.
Ottmar Hitzfeld's team went on to lift the trophy defeating Valencia 5-4 on penalties and will hope playing Arsenal is a good omen.