10 March 2014

Match Preview: Arsenal v. Bayern Munich, Allianz Arena, March 11, 3:45pm (EST)

We need to score at least two goals in Germany to take this tie to extra time. Two goals. We've scored 79 in all competitions this season. And in 26 (around 60%) of those matches we've managed to score at least two goals. Can Giroud and Koscielny pull through for us again vs. the German powerhouse?

Will Koscielny find the back of the net in Germany?
CC License / Wikimedia
There's no denying that a win against Bayern Munich is extremely difficult to come by. A win against Bayern Munich at the Allianz, where they haven't lost a domestic match since October 2012, is an even more challenging undertaking. There's not much that one can say about the German side that we don't already know, as this is the second time in as many years that the Arsenal have faced the FCB in the round of sixteen. Bayern are the current champions of Europe. They haven't dropped a point in five months, and their only fluke loss came against Manchester City after already having clinched the top spot in their group. This weekend the FCB not only extended their Bundesliga lead to 20 points– with an absurd 61+ goal differential as the cherry on top of their success– they stretched their domestic unbeaten record to 49 games as well (tying our beloved Invincibles).

With all of this in mind the average Gooner probably can't help but think that the Bayern players are in fact super humans, truly incapable of being beaten. But here's a Bayern-related image that I will never be able to get out of my head: Bayern's crazy beer-filled celebration after winning the Bundesliga title last season. Boateng sprinting after Ribery with a huge, menacing glass in his hands, Neurer drenching a random woman amidst the chaos – watching the Bayern stars shower each other with endless amounts of beer after their domestic league title win took them out of their normal context on the pitch and left my dad and I in silence/fits of laughter as we sat mesmerized in our hotel room in Madrid. Yes, they actually are humans! They're drinking beer, chasing after each other like little boys, smiling from ear to ear and showing that they are very emotional and excited about their success. They may seem like super humans on the pitch, but these guys are still mere mortals like the rest of us (with incredible skill and desire among other things, no doubt), which means that they are just as capable of making mistakes or of being defeated on any given night.

Having said that, I truly believe that the Arsenal have what it takes to get it done in Germany on what is bound to be another exciting Tuesday night of European action and move on to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League. The Ox thinks so too. We've got the momentum after our successful FA Cup endeavors, that's for sure, and we're in a slightly better position than last year as well. Let's also not forget that Yaya Sanogo, an inexperienced 21-year-old, started and held his own against the reigning champions in the first leg of the tie; I vividly remember him maintaining possession vs. three Bayern defenders and proceeding to send a beautiful ball across the field that landed perfectly at the Ox's feet. Great stuff.

The Ox will be important for the Arsenal's
success on Tuesday.
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Bayern's domestic opponents may be conquered before they even step foot on the pitch, but that is certainly not the attitude that our Gunners will have when they arrive in Germany. When was the last time a top side (like the Arsenal) went up on Bayern late in the game and forced them to respond? If we maintain the defensive intensity that was put on display in the first leg (and if Fabianski produces in Szczesny's absence), and if we get some consistent possession, we can surprise the world (including many doubtful Gooners). My opinions may be viewed as too optimistic and perhaps all together unbelievable, but I'm an optimist and I'll always have faith in our boys.

In terms of team news, Franck Ribery, Thomas Muller, and Xherdan Shaqiri all returned from injury this weekend for Bayern, while Laurent Koscielny– inactive over the weekend– looks set to return to the side for the Arsenal on Tuesday. The Gunners will have to fair without Wojciech Szczesny (suspended) and Jack Wilshere (injured on international duty), and although Aaron Ramsey has returned to training it seems unlikely that he will be ready to make his return to match play in Germany.

We love you Arsenal, we do (and we'd love to see our trophy hopes continue, too). COYG

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