Arguably the most dominant team in Europe at the moment, Bayern Munich prepare to take a big leap in their bid to become the first team to successfully defend their UEFA Champions League crown, when they travel to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal on Wednesday night.
Pep Guardiola’s men have been head and shoulders above the rest in, albeit a weak German Bundesliga, this season, and now will look to assert their dominance in the Champions League as well. Arsenal are the opponents on Wednesday night and the Germans will expect a much tougher time than they have been enduring in their domestic league.
Heading into the game on a nine match unbeaten streak, having scored 28 and conceded just 2, Bayern have every reason to be confident of a victory. However, Arsenal are no pushovers, as they have proven this season and the defending European Champions will certainly have to be at their best to take an advantage back to Germany.
It is fair to say that Manuel Neuer has not been overworked this season. The German international has conceded only nine goals in the league so far and he certainly profits from having a strong back four ahead of him. Arsenal will probably test him more than what he has become accustomed to nowadays and the German number one will certainly be relishing the opportunity.
Pep Guardiola has not changed has defence around too much this season and although Diego Contento and Javi Martinez started in Bayern’s weekend victory over Freiburg, the Spanish manager should revert back to his tried and tested back four on Wednesday night.
The formidable duo of Dante and Jerome Boateng will start at the heart of the defence, while David Alaba and Rafinha will be deployed on the full back positions. Daniel van Buyten and Contento look set to start from the bench.
In the absence of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martínez, skipper Philipp Lahm has been a revelation in the defensive midfield position for Bayern this season. Although Schweinsteiger and Martínez have now returned back to full fitness, Guardiola may persist with Lahm as the connecting link between the defence and attack.
Bayern have an embarrassment of riches of attacking midfield players but the loss of Franck Ribery and Xherdan Shaqiri could prove to be a blow. Nevertheless, Thomas Müller is more than capable of filling-in for the duo, with the dangerous Arjen Robben deployed on the opposite flank.
Toni Kroos should start alongside either Mario Götze or Schweinsteiger centrally, while Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara will probably have to do with a place on the bench.
Claudio Pizarro started in the weekend against Freiburg, but the veteran will surely make way for top goalscorer Mario Mandzukic on the Wednesday night. The Croatian international has been in sensational form this season and will certainly cause the Gunners back-four a lot of problems.
Neuer; Alaba, Dante, Boateng, Rafinha; Lahm; Muller, Kroos, Gotze, Robben; Mandzukic