When defending champions Bayern Munich travels to the Emirates Stadium to take on Arsenal in the Champions League round of 16 at 2:45 EST, the Gunners will be looking to several key players to help give them a leg up before heading to the Allianz Arena next month.
Exactly one year ago, Munich defeated Arsenal at the Emirates by a score of 3-1 in the first leg of the round of 16. Arsenal is stronger on both ends of the pitch than a year ago, but Munich is playing impeccable soccer, unbeaten in its last nine matches overall.
Arsenal will rely heavily on Jack Wilshere, as the English international will have to make up for the absence of the suspended Mikel Arteta and injured Aaron Ramsey.
Having already scored two goals in Champions League play, Wilshere will be matched up against the slower Bastian Schweinsteiger, who may make his first start since returning from injury. This matchup favors the 22-year-old, who could have the German running in circles.
With the absence of wingers Xherdan Shaqiri and Franck Ribery, Munich may be forced to centralize its attack more. With most of the pressure put on Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny in the center of defense, Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs should have plenty of chances to get forward for Arsenal.
The two wing-backs are more than capable of assisting on goals from the attacking third, and their low crosses may prove hazardous for Bayern if it's caught out-manned in transition.
After sitting out Arsenal's FA Cup tie with Liverpool due to fatigue, Olivier Giroud is back in the squad but may only see time in the second half as he isn't in the starting lineup. Seventh in the Premier League in goals scored, Giroud is much improved skillfully and mentally from a year ago.
With the addition of Mesut Ozil, a luxury the Gunners didn't have last time around, Giroud may very well often get the ball at his feet in the latter stages of the game, which could mean bad things for the visitors if the game is close.
Here's Arsenal's starting XI:
#Arsenal team to play Bayern: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini, Wilshere, Ozil, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sanogo— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) February 19, 2014
Wilshere seems like he's ready to go after a good preparation day yesterday.
Good training. Good Press Conference. Good lunch. Now for some Good Dinner and Good rest....Any football on tonight!?!? ;) #CL— Jack Wilshere (@JackWilshere) February 18, 2014
With strong performances from Giroud, Sagna, Gibbs and Wilshere, the Gunners should have an advantage. Arsenal will control this game if it takes advantage of the aforementioned weak spots in Munich's probable tactics, in part caused by the injuries to two of its top players.
Arsene Wegner surely won't let his side concede another three goals at home in the round of 16. Taking everything into consideration, Arsenal will flip the script and earn its own 3-1 victory one year after being on the receiving end of that scoreline.