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Excitement building for Champions League

Bayern v Arsenal: the big match preview

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The floodlights will be on, the anthem will sound and the Allianz Arena will be rocking. On Wednesday evening, FC Bayern play Arsenal in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 match (live text and Webradio commentary from 20:45 CET). Just like the fans, Manuel Neuer can hardly wait.

“We’re looking forward to the Champions League, to the international stage, to a great opponent and hopefully to two wins for us,” said Bayern’s number one on the eve of the match. Mats Hummels shared his goalkeeper’s view: “I like having midweek games. I like the rhythm you get when you’re playing every three or four days, and I’m looking forward to the Champions League.”

FCB play the English side twice (second leg on 7th March in London) for a place in the quarter-finals. And in the run-up to the first encounter, captain Philipp Lahm wanted to dispel one myth: “It’s not necessarily a disadvantage to play away in the first leg, so we need to get a good result at home. But then regardless of how the first game goes, anything is still possible in the away leg.”

“We know what to expect”

For Hummels and Neuer, the priority is to keep a clean sheet. “Not conceding is a key factor in knockout games, particularly in the home leg,” the centre-back emphasised. That’s easier said than done against Arsenal, though. “They’ve played very well in the competition so far and the players have known each other for a long time. It’ll be two tough games against them,” said Neuer in praise of the Gunners, adding: “We know what to expect and we’re very well-prepared.”

In order to avoid any surprises, Carlo Ancelotti has briefed his players well on the team currently fourth in the Premier League. “Arsenal have quick players and can counter very well. They’re a young side, they have a lot of quality and are very dangerous going forward,” said the Italian, who wants his team to “defend well” and show a “good balance”.

Alonso fit

The 57 year-old will be able to call on Xabi Alonso for tomorrow’s game. The Spaniard pulled out of training early on Monday but trained without any problems on Tuesday. Therefore the only absentees for Bayern are Jérôme Boateng and Franck Ribéry, who are both in recovery training.

Fans can look forward to an exciting contest between two of Europe’s top teams. “It will be a meeting of two teams who want to play football,” predicted Hummels, and Neuer sees that as a good thing for all supporters. “They want to have the ball and that could create space for us. Perhaps that will make it a game that’s more pleasing for the fans to watch.”