FC Bayern played their last match of 2012 against Augsburg on Tuesday. They won by a two-goal margin despite a sending off for Franck Ribery early in the second half. Jupp Heynckes' smart substitutions ensured that Bayern went through into the quarterfinals despite getting plenty of yellow cards and having a legitimate goal by Anatoliy Tymoshchuk disallowed. Unfortunately, the quarter-final draw wasn't kind to them. The story was slightly different as far as the Champions League draw is concerned.
THE DFB POKAL DRAW
Borussia Dortmund hammered Bayern in last season's DFB Pokal finale, 5-2. The score-line was extremely embarrassing for the proud Bavarians. Dortmund also hammered Hannover in their last-16 tie this season. Mario Gotze scored a wonderful hat-trick while Jakub Blaszczykowski scored one of the luckiest goals he will ever score—when Ron Zieler's save led to the ball rebounding off his head into the back of the net.
The game will be played at the Allianz Arena and Bayern will have to play without Franck Ribery. Ribery has lost his temper quite a few times in recent years. If his absence turns out to cost Bayern, it will not be the first time that has happened. Ribery missed the 2010 Champions League final after receiving a red card in the semi-final against Lyon. He will be suspended for two matches after his recent red card.
The two teams have met twice this season. Bayern won the match in the Super Cup, 2-1. Bayern was marginally the better side at the Allianz in their Bundesliga meeting. That game ended in a 1-1 draw. Bayern's last exit at the quarter-final stage came in 2009 at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen, 4-2. They have not been knocked out before the semi-finals since then.
Dortmund will perhaps revert to a 4-3-3 to play Bayern. That system was successful to an extent in their most recent meeting at the Allianz Arena. This meeting will be different than the one in the league, though. Bayern has to win this time whereas even a loss wouldn't really have hurt them in the league considering how things have panned out so far.
THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE DRAW
FC Bayern was given the task of taking on an English side in the form of Arsenal. Arsenal has had numerous problems this season. They didn't score a goal till their third league match of the season, which came against Liverpool. The defence looked steady at the beginning of the season, but hasn't looked steady since.
In the Champions League, Schalke exposed their weaknesses and beat them 0-2 at the Emirates. Lars Unnerstall made his first save of the match in injury time in that game. They let a 0-2 lead at the Arena AufSchalke slip. However, Schalke was the better side that night and deserved to win—even though a 2-2 draw wasn't a bad result. Arsene Wenger's stubborn decision to field a mostly reserve side on the final match day against Olympiakos saw them finish second in their group as they lost in Greece.
Santi Cazorla has been a good buy for them. The Spaniard is the key to their attack. However, the Spaniard is reluctant to defend and disappeared against Manchester United until injury time. He can score good goals, but it seems that a good defensive midfielder can shut him down. Lukas Podolski, a former Bayern man, has done well on the wing.
Podolski's struggles at Bayern are no secret. Ottmar Hitzfeld gave him chances to impress, but he did not. Jurgen Klinsmann preferred to leave him out of the side in favour of Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni. After Klinsmann's sacking, Jupp Heynckes used him in five matches when Klose was injured and he scored plenty of goals in those games. His best performance for Bayern perhaps came in this competition in 2009 when he helped Bayern beat Sporting 7-1 at the Allianz Arena en route to an aggregate 12-1 victory.
Arsenal's wing-backs are very good. Provided that they can stay fit, Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs will help their team immensely. The centre of defence is shaky. Per Mertesacker has had a good season, but has problems against fast forwards. Thomas Vermaelen, despite being generally reliable, can struggle at times. As far as Laurent Koscielny is concerned, it is difficult to predict how he will play on a given day.
Mikel Arteta has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders in defensive midfield. He is the piece of the puzzle which holds Arsenal together. His best position is really in attacking midfield, but he has done well in defensive midfield. He is sometimes partnered by the tough Jack Wilshere. Wilshere has helped Arsenal since returning from injury.
Up front, Olivier Giroud is a good forward. He can be compared to Mario Gomez when Gomez is having an average day on current form. Another option there is Theo Walcott, who is blessed with plenty of pace. He can finish well. However, when on the wing, his main problem is that he cannot pick out the right players easily.
Overall, this Arsenal team has impressed against weaker opposition, but hasn't really done well against stronger opposition. Their passing is slow and a bit indecisive at times, but on their day, they are great to watch. Bayern has the tools necessary to beat them as they are well equipped to take advantage of their weaknesses.
Arsenal does not like to be pressed. Bayern has added pressing to their strategy this season. Arsenal is vulnerable on the counter-attack and on set-pieces. Bayern is as well, but not to the extent one might think. They can execute brilliant counter-attacks. Bayern has conceded very few goals this season. Arsenal's defenders do not do well against big and fast forwards. Bayern has both in the side.
Arsenal has problems against physical sides. Bayern isn't necessarily physical, but can be when needed. For example, Javier Martinez and Luiz Gustavo as well as Bastian Schweinsteiger have been booked for tackles this season. Both Jerome Boateng and Holger Badstuber will be absent for this tie due to suspension and injury. Arsenal will hope to take advantage of Bayern's make-shift centre-back.
For Bayern, the key will be winning the midfield battle. They are well equipped to do so. Also, considering Arsenal's DM is a makeshift DM, they can use Toni Kroos and Schweinsteiger's vision to great affect. Thomas Muller's "awkwardness" can cause all sorts of problems for Arsenal. Also, they have to be wary of Arsenal's counter-attacks.
Bayern must not underestimate Arsenal. Complacency cost Bayern games against Inter Milan, Basel and BATE Borisov in the past few seasons. Bayern can win as long as they stay true to their nature. Bayern struggles most when they are favourites as Fiorentina and Basel will point out. They simply cannot afford to be complacent.
Who do you think will win the ties? Let me hear your thoughts!
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