How Bayern Munich will line up against Arsenal in the Champions League

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2014

Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, right, and Bayern's Mario Goetze challenge for the ball during a Champions League, round of 16, first leg soccer match between Arsenal and Bayern Munich at the Emirates stadium in London, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 .(AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Alastair Grant/Associated Press

Bayern Munich return to Champions League responsibilities this week as they welcome English Premier League side Arsenal to the Allianz Arena for the second leg of their first-round tie. 

Although Bayern did well to gain an important two-goal advantage from the first leg, which of course would count as two away goals in the event of a tie, the London side do indeed have a very impressive run of results in Germany. With their 2-0 win at the Allianz Arena last season extending their unbeaten streak in the country to five games. 

Bayern are looking at a near-perfect bill of health ahead of the home tie, following Thomas Muller and Franck Ribery's return to action this weekend in the club's emphatic 6-1 win over Wolfsburg. Although key players such as Mario Gotze and Bastian Schweinsteiger were given the day off ahead of European commitments, the two aforementioned forwards were joined by Xherdan Shaqiri and Javi Martinez as Guardiola rotated his team to give all who may feature on Tuesday night a fair run out. 

As such, we're likely to see a similar backline to that of which Guardiola has stuck with throughout the season with the Brazilian fullback Rafinha on the right and David Alaba on the left. Jerome Boateng is likely to start too in the centre of the pitch, but we may see Javi Martinez come in for Dante, considering the mainstay defender's disciplinary record (he is but one yellow card from a ban in the next game).

We will have to wait and see if the Catalonian coach would prefer to see his towering centre-back pick up such a booking now and get it out of the way early by missing the first leg of the quarter-finals or risk losing him further down the line against trickier opponents. 

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

In midfield, we should expect to see a midfield trio of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm as the two holding players, with young Thiago Alcantara sitting in front of them as the forward-looking play-maker. 

As we know, Schweinsteiger was rested at the weekend and so should be fighting fit to take on an Arsenal midfield that could see the return of Spaniard Mikel Arteta to their ranks following a one-match ban in the previous leg. Philipp Lahm takes up his new role of midfield general, which he has seamlessly performed throughout the season.

As to whether Thiago will indeed start over Toni Kroos is essentially anyone's guess, considering how often Guardiola tends to methodically switch between the two players, but the manner in which the former Barcelona player came on for Kroos and turned the Wolfsburg game in his side's favour on Saturday should weigh on their coach's mind as he looks to a starting XI. 

Something we should also take note of is the comments made by the young German international during a press conference ahead of the match, today. As reported by the Guardian, Kroos was said to have stated that he could join Manchester United this summer even if they don't make the Champions League next season. Big news in England that may see the youngster dropped for blatant misbehaviour. 

The forward line will also prove difficult to predict following Guardiola's decision to drop Mario Mandzukic for Muller on Saturday, with the German star then scoring an impressive hat-trick upon being given the opportunity.

Whether he was just resting his lone striker or indeed wanted to test Muller out in the striking position ahead of the Arsenal game is still unsure, but for now it would be safe to say that he will probably stick with his top goalscorer in such a high-profile match. 

As such, we're likely to then see the return of Franck Ribery on the left-hand side of attack, followed by Arjen Robben on the right. Both players are currently playing some of the best football of their careers, and despite players such as Shaqiri and Gotze fighting for contention, both experienced wide-men continue to stand in front of such an illustrious queue.