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Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich: match preview

Don't mention the war.

Clive Mason

Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich
UEFA Champions League
Wednesday, February 19 2014 | 2:45pm Eastern, 7:45pm London
The Emirates Stadium, London, England
TV: Fox Sports 2 and Fox Soccer 2 Go

Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich: Champions League

Arsenal face Bayern Munich, the reigning champions of Europe, in the first leg of a Champions League tie at the round of 16. Vengeance will be on fans' minds (while probably not the players') not only for the two-legged defeat in the same round of this competition last year, but for a 3-1 outclassing in London in that tie.

Of course, it's going to be a tough task. While Bayern will be missing Franck Ribery after surgery to relieve a blood clot, they're the prospective best team in the world and certainly have a plethora of options to replace him. Arjen Robben is still there, Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze can play on the flank, and holy crap they just have a lot of really good players. Bavarian Football Works predicts a starting lineup here; they're more qualified than I am to do that, so I'll go with their guess.

On our side, there were no new injuries from the Liverpool FA Cup match, and "all of the players have recovered" according to Arsene Wenger. Thomas Rosicky is healthy, Mikel Arteta is suspended, so pretty much other than that we have the players we've been using for the past few weeks. Here's a possible starting lineup:

Sagna -- Mertesacker -- Koscielny -- Gibbs
Flamini -- Rosicky
Oxlade-Chamberlain -- Ozil -- Cazorla

To be frank, I really wish Arteta and Aaron Ramsey were available for this match, but with the players available, I think this is probably the best that we can do. Flamini will hopefully protect the defense, with Rosicky providing runs from deep and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain running behind the defense for Mesut Ozil much as he did against Liverpool. This is likely to be a game with a lot of Arsenal counterattacking, so that defensive foundation and those runners will be absolutely critical. If Arsenal have a lead or are level late, expect whichever left back doesn't start to come on as a substitute.

This is going to be a tough game. Against a team like this, Arsenal could play spectacularly well and still fail to win. But three years ago, Arsenal beat the best team in the world at the Emirates. Pep Guardiola was the manager. Nicola Rizzoli was the referee (as he will be again today; he has never refereed an Arsenal loss). The cool thing about sports is that trying to make predictions is stupid, because practically anything can happen. Hopefully there's some magic in it tonight.