The UEFA Champions League round of 16 will provide another fascinating matchup wh Arsenal welcome German giants Bayern Munich to town.
The North London club have never won the European tournament before and have only made the final on one occasion—something they'll be looking to rectify here.
Bayern, on the other hand, have been to the final a staggering nine times in their history, and have won four of those nine finals. That's good for third on the all-time Champions League winners list, but it's also good for first on the all-time Champions League final losers list as well, which they'll be looking to avoid no doubt this season in the competition.
Who will triumph, then, in this pivotal round of 16 clash? Will it be the English giants looking to make the step across to Europe's most prestigious tournament?
Or will it be the tried-and-tested German side, who know all too well how hard losing in the tournament feels after tasting defeat in the final last year?
Read on for a full and complete preview for this week's Champions League clash, including all the details as well as live stream and viewing information.
Date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Time: 2:45 p.m. ET (7:45 p.m. local time)
Venue: Emirates Stadium, London
Live Stream and TV Info
Fox Soccer Channel, FOX Deportes and Fox Soccer 2Go will all cover this key Champions League clash throughout the United States, according to Live Soccer TV. Sky Sports Events Centre, ITV HD, UTV, ITV 1 will provide coverage throughout the United Kingdom.
The Season so Far: Arsenal
After making some big moves over the summer transfer window, Arsenal have had a largely disappointing season in the English Premier League, with attacking inconsistencies largely to blame for their inadequate results.
The North London club currently sit four points outside of the Champions League spots in fifth position but haven't beaten a team inside the top three all season. That inability to make the step to the elite group of teams has brought great pressure on the club, who come into this match under a mountain of expectation and need for a more resilient showing.
They know that their chance at dominating the Premier League has long but gone, and now they will be in a real fight just to finish inside the top four.
Moreover, the club has been eliminated from both the FA Cup and Capital One Cup to relatively lowly teams, and the Champions League now stands as, really, their only remaining chance at a title in 2013.
Having said that, the Gunners are on a four-game undefeated streak in the Premier League and have conceded just one goal in their last three matches in all competitions.
They'll certainly be up for this clash and provide great resilience right across the pitch to whatever the Germans throw at them.
The Season so Far: Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich could not have a better form line coming into this Champions League clash, with the German giants arguably the most in-form team in world football.
They've lost just one game all season in the Bundesliga—back in October—and have pulled away on top of the German competition as a result.
However, the most remarkable aspect of that particular run so far has been their defense, which has allowed just seven goals against in 22 matches. Away from home, that record becomes even more incredible, with the 2012 Champions League runners-up conceding just one goal away all season—once in 11 matches, and the goal came back in November.
The German side will be a surprising favorite heading into this match at the Emirates given their attacking dominance and defensive brilliance this season, and they will be looking for a key advantage heading into the return leg next month.
Whether or not they can break through the Gunners completely here still remains to be seen, however, with the Germans already showing throughout the Champions League group stage that they are not as strong in Europe as they are domestically.
Key matchup to watch: Thomas Vermaelen vs. Thomas Muller
Arsenal were dealt a crippling blow a few weeks back with the news that England international and starting left-back Kieran Gibbs would miss this clash, and several more, due to injury. That meant the Gunners were down to less-than-inspiring defender Andre Santos as their only other regulation left-back for this must-win Champions League clash.
As a result, the club did sign Nacho Monreal from Malaga over the winter transfer window to cover Gibbs in the Premier League. However, Monrael is cup-tied with the Spanish club already this season, meaning that he cannot play against Bayern Munich here.
The defensive duties at left-back will likely fall to captain Thomas Vermaelen, who has played out on the left several times for Arsenal before.
Laurent Koscielny will play in the middle alongside Per Metersacker, but it will be the matchup of Vermaelen against German star Thomas Muller that could prove to be the most interesting aspect of this matchup.
Muller has netted 11 goals and nine assists from his 19 domestic appearances to date, and has three Champions League goals to go along with that.
He'll certainly be an attacking threat to watch for Arsenal in this one; perhaps even more so given the positional changes that have taken place for the Gunners.
Vermaelen has a huge role to play in this one, and could potentially swing the match back in favor for Arsenal if he can shut Muller down. If not, it'll only further increase Bayern's chances of success here.
Three stats to consider
Two—Arsenal have only lost two of their 17 home games when it comes to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, with both coming against English opposition. They lost to Chelsea in 2004 and Manchester United in 2009.
Four—Bayern Munich have lost their last four Champions League matches in England, and haven't won there since they beat Manchester United in 2001.
Nine—Bayern Munich had nine different goalscorers in the Champions League group stage, more than any other team in the tournament. By comparison, Arsenal scored just 10 goals in total from their six group stage matches, and recorded just 47 shots in total as well. That is the least of all the teams.
Arsenal might not be traveling as well as many expected throughout 2013, but there can be no doubting that the North London club will gear up for this one.
Aside from a North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur (in which they crushed Spurs 5-2), this is the biggest game the Gunners will have played all year, and Arsene Wenger's men will know full well the expectation placed upon them.
Bayern Munich will head into this match as favorites given their attacking dominance, defensive brilliance and the Gunners' inconsistencies, but that's certainly no reason to suggest that Arsenal can't get it done here.
Even a draw would seem like a mini-victory for the Gunners here given how many have written them off, which will surely only play into their hands even more. Bayern are the team expected to win here—not Arsenal—and thus the pressure is on the German giants to achieve victory, despite the fact that they're playing thousands of miles away from home in London.
As a result, don't expect too many goals throughout this one. Both sides have shown their defensive strengths throughout the year, and whilst Bayern have done that more the Arsenal, the shift of Vermaelen out on the left might not be such a bad thing after all for the Gunners.
I'd expect Bayern to control most of the match, with Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta forced to work tirelessly in midfield to try and keep up, but for that to not necessarily translate directly into goals scored for the visiting side. I'm going with a second-half goal to Mario Gomez as the only difference here as the Gunners fall just short of Bayern Munich in this one.
Arsene Wenger's men certainly won't be embarrassed by their showing, but they won't walk away with the points either from this one.
Final score: Arsenal 0, Bayern Munich 1
What do you see happening between Arsenal and Bayern Munich?
Comment below or hit me up on Twitter: Follow @dantalintyre