Feb 19, 2014

    Wenger puts on brave face on Bayern tie


    ARSENE Wenger insists Arsenal have no reason to fear Bayern Munich as they prepare to face the Champions League holders in the first leg of the last 16 today.

    Just 12 months after they crashed out of Europe's elite club competition at the hands of the German giants, Wenger's team have an opportunity for revenge after being drawn to face Bayern at the same stage.

    Arsenal were outclassed in the first leg last season as Bayern, who were then managed by Jupp Heynckes, cruised to a 3-1 victory in London.

    But the Gunners responded with a shock 2-0 win in the return leg and came close to completing a stunning fightback before bowing out on away goals.

    Winning in Munich proved a major boost for Wenger's side, who had lost their way at that time but finished the season strongly and have maintained their impressive form for much of the current campaign.

    Yet Bayern, now coached by former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, are arguably an even more formidable force this season than they were last year, when they won the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup.

    The Bavarians will swagger into the Emirates Stadium on a 46-match unbeaten run in the Bundesliga. They lead the German top flight by 16 points, allowing them to focus fully on retaining the Champions League crown.

    But Wenger is confident the experience of last season's encounters will stand his players in good stead, noting: "We know them better, individually the players. We will be in a better condition hopefully, because last year was after the disappointment of losing against Blackburn in the FA Cup, to play Bayern three days later it was very difficult for us.

    "I think in the league as well we were in a much more difficult position. Now we are mentally better prepared to go into a game of that stature."

    Arsenal will be without suspended Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta, but Bayern have more significant absentees. France winger Franck Ribery is sidelined after surgery, while Swiss Xherdan Shaqiri suffered a thigh injury on Saturday.

    But Bayern captain Philipp Lahm insisted: "We're not going there for a 0-0 draw, we want to win in London."

    Centre-back Jerome Boateng added: "We have to prove on the pitch that we are better. We don't want to go into the return match chasing a result."