After watching Arsenal surgically torn apart by Bayern at the Emirates a couple of weeks ago, there will surely have been very few Gooners feeling confident about the return leg. Not much since will have displaced that view. The defeat to arch rivals Spurs last week and a gap in the schedule this weekend, thanks to their disappointing elimination for the FA Cup, will hardly inspire their expectations. Still, as someone once said ‘it’s a funny old game’ and you never know. So, just how big is the test confronting Arsenal in Bavaria?
Domestically, Bayern are dominant. Currently they are tearing up a Bundesliga that looks even less competitive than the Manchester United-dominated Premier League. Even Borussia Dortmund, the team that comfortably outplayed Manchester City twice in the Champions’ League, and look well set for a place in the quarter finals after trouncing the strong Uknranian outfit, ShaktarDenetsk 3-0, are trailing far behind in their wake. They lead the Rhine-Westphalian club by some twenty points and have a goal difference more than twice as good as Dortmund’s. In fact they have only conceded two goals at home all season.
A review of Champions’ League history doesn’t offer much encouragement either. In the entire history of the tournament, only two teams have ever progressed in a two-legged tie, after losing at home, and both of them – Ajax and Inter Milan – had only lost 0-1. No team has ever turned around a two goal home deficit.
Ah, I hear you say, but they may be a little over confident. This could be their Achilles heel. After all, didn’t Chelsea go to the Allianz and take the Champions’ League trophy in Bayern’s own backyard. What about all that “Our city. Our stadium. Our trophy.” stuff. That didn’t work out so well for them, did it? Well, that’s true, but if Arsenal conspire to allow Bayern as many chances this week, as they carved out on that balmy – and, let’s face it, barmy – May evening against Chelsea, you can rest assured they’ll be on the sticky end of a severe defeat. Gary Neville doesn’t say “it is written in the stars” very often.
So Arsenal have it all to do. Just to put a little cap on it, in summary, the Gooners are going to have to overturn current form and momentum, create Champions’ League history and, assuming Bayern don’t score – which given Arsenal’s defensive frailty at the moment looks a little shaky – they need to score more goals against Bayern in the Allianz, in one game, than the Bavarian team have conceded there all season.
So, is it a mission impossible? No, not impossible, but mission very improbable is about right. Good luck Gooners. I think you’re going to need it!