Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Bayern vs Arsenal: Match Preview

"What's the virtue in putting so much sweat in a match that won't really help our trophy chances? Yes, we can win the match and the tie, but the chances of doing so are really low. In addition, ambitions like the Premier League and the FA Cup are much more realistic - why risk injuries and stamina in a potential dead rubber?

I say we cut our losses, play a fresh, substitute lineup and view this game as a bonus friendly than an obstacle to Champions League glory."

Remember I said this after our 0-2 loss against the best team in the world? Yeah, scrap that. I was blabbering garble.

A lot has changed since that loss. Our title hopes have derailed way off path, while something of a polar opposite has happened in the FA Cup. We enter one of the most glamorous matches of the season in confidence, and while that alone may not be enough to provide us with any hope in the second leg, it gives us a massive opportunity to restore pride on Europe's biggest stage.

I want us to win. There, I said it.

I'm not saying that I want us to qualify for the quarterfinals, for I understand that that isn't really fair to ask of a thin squad, not to mention the added fixtures will take its toll on us. However, I really want Arsenal to defeat Bayern Munich (or at least, achieve a positive result) because I know how morale-boosting a victory at the Allianz Arena can be.

Imagine this scenario. We beat Bayern Munich by a one-goal margin, bowing out of the Champions League in the best possible way. Five days later, we thump Tottenham Hotspur and nearly seal our top four berth, enabling us to push on further. Take a second and wonder at the heights of optimism, belief and positivity that would engulf the team going into a crucial Chelsea clash.

We can use the Bayern game as a catalyst - a positive result there can have Ozilish implications on our team and springboard our form for the better as we enter the crucial run-in period. We don't need to look beyond last season, where after a 0-2 win (against the same side!), we overtook Tottenham by winning 7 of our last 9 games.

However, this season has much higher stakes. We aren't fighting for the top four; we're fighting for the top two. In addition, we're in with a real chance of winning the FA Cup since 2005. If that was not enough, we can afford to play key men for this encounter, contrary to popular opinion.

Olivier Giroud is rested. Lukas Podolski is rested. Tomas Rosicky and Laurent Koscielny are rested. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ozil are in form; benching them would be a shame. Especially Ozil, who would hopefully want to make amends for his penalty miss in front of his German fans. We can safely field a lineup of Fabianski - Sagna - Mertesacker - Koscielny - Vermaelen - (Gibbs and Monreal won't make it) - Flamini - Rosicky - Ozil - Chamberlain - Podolski - Giroud, and yet get a decent result, irrespective of qualification or not.

Players would be tired entering the North London derby? I don't think so. Even though we'll be travelling to England from Germany, we'll have five days of rest going into this game. If we use the lineup that I suggested above, we'll still have Szczesny, Ramsey, Kallstrom, Rosicky, Arteta and Cazorla rested and fit for this match.

Ideally, I wouldn't want us to qualify for the quarterfinals because our squad is too thin and not good enough to win the Champions League. However, the 0-2 loss has put us in a position where a one-niller would not give us qualification, yet skyrocket our confidence (and probably our form).

I'm confident that we'll thump the Spuds. However, if we beat Bayern Munich before that, we can set a fantastic tone going into the final stages of the campaign (which feature important FA Cup games and Chelsea, Man City and Everton encounters). It's almost ironic that a dead rubber has the potential to be the most important match of the season.

We're in the Champions League, roughly equivalent to the club's World Cup. I'd prefer if we actually played like Champions and do justice to the occasion.

Come on You Gunners. Time to restore some more pride.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )