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How Bayern Munich Will Line Up Against Arsenal in the Champions League

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How Bayern Munich Will Line Up Against Arsenal in the Champions League
Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Wednesday's Champions League clash between Arsenal and Bayern Munich should prove to be a star-studded affair with all the talent and skill to rival any encounter across the continent's glamorous competition this week. 

Yet how Pep Guardiola's side will line up for the opening tie of their important last 16 clash with the North London side is still relatively unknown. 

 

Defence

It is in defence that we are likely to see the most changes to Guardiola's side as club captain Philipp Lahm makes his long-awaited return to the right-back position. 

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This is likely to come about due to two reasons; the first being that Rafinha is probably not deemed good enough for this stage of the Champions League competition. The second reason is, of course, the return of Bayern's first choice defensive midfielder. 

David Alaba will return to left-back following a welcome break against Freiburg at the weekend, while Brazilian centre-back Dante keeps his regular spot as the young Austrian defender's fellow tackler on the left. 

What we may also see is Javi Martinez keep his recently acquired role as Dante's partner in the centre of defence, following strong performances against Hamburg in the cup throughout last week and against Freiburg on Saturday.

It is no secret that Guardiola favours his fellow Spaniard further back down the pitch, but whether the Arsenal game comes too soon in his development is uncertain. 

 

Midfield

With Lahm back in the defensive lineup, we can expect to see Bastian Schweinsteiger reclaim his throne in the centre of midfield. 

The German international has been out injured for quite some time, but he did return against Hamburg earlier last week and also had a fair run out in the weekend's Bundesliga clash. Perhaps not fit enough to command a game for the full 90 minutes, but we should expect to see him start.

If Schweinsteiger does indeed start, the rest of the middle three should truly sort itself out. German international Toni Kroos and his Spanish teammate Thiago Alcantara have both been invaluable to Bayern's cause over the past few months and will relish such a game against Arsenal in equal measures.

It was Kroos who truly turned on his form in last season's Champions League run to the final and amongst the shadows cast by Franck Ribery, Lahm and Schweinsteiger, the young midfielder really came of age in the quest to become one of the best throughout Europe.

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Similarly, Thiago has been outstanding since arriving from Barcelona and really hit the ground running in regards to his demand for a first-team spot. Between the pair of them, the Bavarian club must have a valid case to say they have two of the best young, central midfielders in the world of football at this moment in time. Assuming nothing drastic happens between now and Wednesday, we should see both feature heavily.

 

Forwards

With both Ribery and Xherdan Shaqiri—two players who have contributed so much to Bayern's season this year—out injured for this upcoming clash, you would think Guardiola's front line would essentially pick itself. 

Yet we still have the conundrum over whether Mario Mandzukic, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller or Mario Gotze will start on the night. 

First things first: The Croatian striker will be invaluable in this away tie, considering his goalscoring record of five goals in his last three games for the club. Bayern will need a traditional striker for this match and they don't come much better than Mandzukic. 

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When we move on to the two wingers that will offer the width, imagination and, most importantly, the goalscoring opportunities for the side, things become a little trickier. Muller looks the strongest candidate on paper due to his superior goalscoring record, but we have seen Guardiola keep the towering German on the bench and use him as an effective substitute in numerous games this season. 

As such, I think we'll likely see a front three of Mandzukic supported by Gotze on the left-hand side, in Ribery and Shaqiri's absence, with Robben on his favoured right wing. Both players offer a goalscoring threat and the type of pace that Bayern will hope to hit Arsenal with on the break. 

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