The pressure continues to build on Arsenal and manager Arsene Wenger as his side must recover from their humiliating elimination from the FA Cup at home to Championship side Blackburn and prepare for the visit of Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich to London for the first leg of the two side’s Champions League last 16 clash.
The Gunners are on the brink of an eighth consecutive season without a trophy should they exit to last year’s runners up and despite Wenger’s protestations to the contrary, the English side face a daunting prospect if they are to even advance to the quarter finals. Bayern have been in imperious form all season long, leading the Bundesliga standings by a whopping 15 points ahead of an outstanding Borussia Dortmund team and having conceded only seven goals throughout the entire campaign. Indeed, such has been the quality of the Bavarian’s performances that the likes of Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben, so prolific and vital for the club in the past, struggle to make the starting line-up ahead of Mario Mandzukic and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Arsene Wenger has claimed his side will go for the victory on Tuesday night as they attempt to put themselves in a good position before the return leg in Munich, although the Gunners will surely be wary of committing too many men forward and leaving their rather porous backline open to Bayern’s quickfire counter-attacks, led by the likes of Ribery, Robben and Shaqiri.
The Gunners are sure to make a raft of changes from the side that collapsed so dismally to Blackburn with the rested trio of Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and top-scorer Theo Walcott all set to return to the starting XI. Elsewhere, due to Nacho Monreal’s ineligibility and Kieran Gibbs’ injury absence, Thomas Vermaelen looks set to move across to left-back with Per Mertesacker partnering Laurent Koscielny. Up front, Wenger must choose whether to persist with Olivier Giroud as the focal point or opt for either Walcott or Lukas Podolski, bringing either Aaron Ramsey or Abou Diaby in to stiffen up the midfield.
Bayern have Javi Martinez available after the club’s record signing missed their league victory at Wolfsburg with a bruised toe. However, Jupp Heynckes is without the services of striker Claudio Pizarro (illness) as well as first-choice central-defensive duo Jerome Boateng (suspension) and Holger Badstuber (knee) with Dante set to be partnered by either Luiz Gustavo or Daniel Van Buyten.