Arsenal: 5 Teams That Could Beat Them in Europe and Why
When Arsenal scored a late winner over Brighton to ease into the FA Cup fifth round, pundits and fans alike noted that the venerable competition was the Gunners' last chance for silverware this season.
But wait, you may say—what about the Champions League?
Well, of course, technically Arsenal are still in contention for the biggest prize of all.
And to be fair, they're playing no worse than Chelsea were when they won it last year.
Yet realistically it seems very far-fetched that this strangely fragile and inconsistent Arsenal side could be the first in club history to take Europe's top honours.
Here are five potential Champions League opponents who could beat Arsenal this season.
We'll start with the obvious.
Arsenal host Bayern Munich in the round of 16 first leg February 19, and will be praying for a good result to give them any chance of proceeding to the quarterfinals.
Historically, Arsenal haven't had much luck with the giants of the Bundesliga. Bayern have knocked them out in both previous Champions League encounters, in 2004/05 and 2000/01.
This year's edition holds little promise of breaking that pattern.
Boasting such lethal attacking players as Thomas Müller, Mario Gomez, Toni Kroos and Mario Mandzukic, Bayern are sure to test Arsenal's suspect defence to the utmost.
At the same time, Bayern will be difficult to break down, with Bastian Schweinsteiger bossing the midfield, an expert defence and the top-class Manuel Neuer in goal.
In superb form, Bayern Munich are probably second only to Barcelona right now as the team everyone wants to avoid in the Champions League.
Two words: Didier Drogba.
The former Chelsea striker enjoyed such relentlessly domineering form against Arsenal, Arsène Wenger was moved to tell the club website how pleased he was that Drogba was moving to China.
But that strange foray was short-lived, and the Ivorian will now return to Champions League action with Galatasaray.
With a record of 13 goals in 14 games against Arsenal, Drogba would no doubt relish a European meeting.
Add in Galatasaray's other big-name January signing, Dutch dynamo Wesley Sneijder, and tournament joint-top-scorer Burak Yilmaz, and the Turkish club look a formidable threat.
Fans will fondly recall the last time Arsenal and Juventus met in the Champions League, in 2006.
Patrick Vieira had finally made his long-threatened move away from Arsenal to the Italian giants, and many feared the lightweight new Gunners would struggle against their former captain plus an all-star lineup including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fabio Cannavaro and Lilian Thuram.
All fears were allayed in a dazzling home performance that saw the confirmation of Cesc Fabregas' influence at the club.
Arsenal ultimately went on to their first Champions League final that year, and Juventus wound up relegated to Serie B for their part in the calciopoli scandal.
But fortunes for both clubs have since changed.
Juventus, rehabilitated and reinvented, are still riding the form that saw them win the Scudetto undefeated last year.
They also remain undefeated in this season's Champions League, and in their 3-0 dismissal of title-holders Chelsea, Juve produced one of the standout performances anywhere in Europe this season.
In addition to their formidable defence, Juve have the perennially pivotal Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio and exciting emerging talent Paul Pogba. They have occasionally been found lacking up front, a weakness the January signing of Nicolas Anelka aims to address.
But with or without the infamous Arsenal old boy, Juve have more than enough to overpower the Gunners.
Barcelona don't always swat Arsenal aside entirely with their customary ease, but the gulf in class between the two champions of tiki-taka is still painfully apparent when they meet.
Arsenal have only once got the better of Barcelona in the Champions League, when they battled to a 2-1 win in the home leg of the 2010/11 round of 16.
It turned out to be a hollow victory, overturned 3-1 in the away fixture.
There is no reason to believe any meeting in the 2012/13 Champions League would favour the Gunners. Deserving favourites to lift the cup again, Barcelona are in imperious form that a stuttering Arsenal couldn't realistically hope to conquer.
From the quarterfinals on, teams can be drawn against opposition from their own countries. If they should get past Bayern Munich, Arsenal will hope they don't then have to face their Premier League nemeses, Manchester United.
The day that Arsenal won the league at Old Trafford in 2002 seems far more than a decade distant.
In recent years, Man United have stamped their authority over this rivalry almost definitively, the infamous 8-2 drubbing last season symbolising all that has gone wrong for Arsenal over the past few seasons.
Although Arsenal in top form are certainly capable of beating a United side who have occasionally shown exploitable weaknesses, it seems highly unlikely they could prevail in a two-legged affair.
Now, in the final, maybe...