Arsenal face the near-impossible looking task of needing to score three times without replay at Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich if they are to progress into the quarter finals of the Champions League.
The Gunners were outclassed in the first leg at the Emirates, comprehensively losing 3-1 in a result that could have been a lot worse had the Bavarians, easily one of the best sides in Europe this season, been more clinical. However, Lukas Podolski’s consolation strike in London does at least give Arsene Wenger’s men a slender bit of hope heading to the Allianz Arena and if they can muster the same sort of spirit that saw them almost pull back a 4-0 deficit against Milan last season (albeit with Robin van Persie in their ranks), then perhaps another humiliation in Germany can be avoided.
However, any increasing Arsenal hopes have been hit by a raft of injury problems in recent days, most prominently to key midfielder Jack Wilshere who has been ruled out for the next three weeks with an inflamed ankle.
The absence of the England midfielder, who of course missed the whole of last season and Euro 2012 with an ankle injury, is a devastating blow to Arsene Wenger’s hopes of not only a recovery against Bayern but also a place in the Champions League next season via a top-four Premier League finish. Abou Diaby is fit to travel and he could make up a three-man midfield along with Mikel Arteta and either Aaron Ramsey or Tomas Rosicky.
Elsewhere, ‘keeper Wojciech Szczesny and star midfielder Santi Cazorla has been left at home, along with Theo Walcott, apparently rested for the weekend clash with Swansea. Meanwhile injury rules out Lukas Podolski. Nacho Monreal is cup-tied so the left-back spot will either be taken by Thomas Vermaelen or the returning Kieran Gibbs, while Bacary Sagna’s continued absence with a knee problem means Carl Jenkinson looks set to keep his place at right-back. Olivier Giroud will lead the Arsenal attack.
Bayern will be full of confidence after moving 20 points clear of Borussia Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga at the weekend. However, Jupp Heynckes’ side will be without French winger Franck Ribery due to damaged ankle ligaments while Arjen Robben is also a doubt with a calf problem. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Jerome Boateng are suspended but such is the strength in depth the Germans have at their disposal, their absences are unlikely to be felt too hard.
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