Created on 11-03-2014 at 08:50 AM
Arsenal have arrived in Munich convinced they can work a minor miracle and overturn a two-goal deficit from the Champions League Round of 16 first leg. Gooners fans have been expressing their hopes on Twitter with hashtags like #believe and #coyg (Come on you gooners). At the Allianz Arena some 26 hours before kick-off head coach Arsene Wenger and midfield dynamo Mikel Arteta put those digital hopes into spoken words with both insisting the tie is far from over.
“We know we can do it. We can rise to this challenge with quality and the right level of passion,” declared Wenger, “we’ve already won wherever we’ve been in Europe.” Arteta agreed: “Playing here is tough. But if we score everything changes. If we give it our best shot we have a chance.“
Pep Guardiola and his men know they will have to work for victory, just as in the first leg three weeks ago, and indeed the meeting exactly a year ago at the same stage of the competition, when Arsenal won the return in Munich 2–0 and were only knocked out on away goals. “We’ve not forgotten that. It strengthens our belief we can get a result,” commented Arteta.
Seeking the right balance
“We’re in a similar position to last season and maybe even a better one,” Wenger observed, as another 2–0 win would at least earn Arsenal a shot at extra time. “An early goal would be helpful,” said the most experienced Champions League coach in the competition with 159 matches under his belt. However, Wenger urged his men to be patient: “We scored two goals in the last five minutes against Everton,” he recalled. The Gunners beat the Toffees 4–1 in the FA Cup last weekend.
But Wenger is also a realist. “We have even more to do than we did last year,” he acknowledged. “Bayern are very well integrated as a team and full of belief. I think they’re considered favourites all over Europe. But we’ll be very good opponents. We know we have to attack, but we also know we have to defend. I have to find the right balance.”
Gibbs ruled out
The boss is hoping for great things from his German contingent. Wenger believes Mesut Özil has bounced back from a low caused by his missed penalty in the first leg: “Tuesday evening is a good opportunity for him to show how good he is.” Centre-back Per Mertesacker “has become a great player in England,” the Frenchman noted. As for former FCB man Lukas Podolski, “he was out for a long time but he’s back in form now,” and 18-year-old talent Serge Gnabry “has a great future ahead of him.”
Arsenal are without regular keeper Wojciech Szczesny who serves a suspension following his red card in the first leg. Lukasz Fabianski will deputise, as he did last year. Long-term absentees Theo Walcott (cruciate), Jack Wilshere (fractured foot), Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Kim Källström (back) and Abou Diaby (knee) have been joined on the injury roster by left-back Kieran Gibbs (ankle). Thomas Vermaelen is set to take over in the back four. Laurent Koscielny should start after shaking off a thigh injury and Arteta returns from suspension. “We’ll give it everything,” vowed Wenger.