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Arsenal’s Russian midfielder Andrey Arshavin warms up during a training session at the club’s complex in London Colney on the eve of their Champions League match against Bayern Munich in Germany, today.
BERLIN: Arsenal must stage one of the most unlikely Champions League comebacks if they are to advance at the expense of hosts Bayern Munich in their round of 16 second leg clash today.
Bayern silenced the Gunners 3-1 in London last month to put themselves in the driving seat for a spot in the quarter-finals for the third time in the last four seasons.
Only twice in the Champions League has a team lost the home leg of a knockout round match and survived by winning the away leg.
Ajax Amsterdam did it in 1995-96 against Panathinaikos and Inter Milan did it in the last 16 in 2010-11 -- coincidentally against Bayern.
The Germans won 1-0 in Milan in the first leg, before losing 3-2 at home and going out on the away goals rule.
Arsenal though have two goals to make up and must overcome the psychological disadvantage of having been completely outplayed by Bayern in north London -- something coach Arsene Wenger was at pains to point out before the squad left for Germany.
“We’re chasing the game in a very difficult environment against a team that has no doubts at all,” he said.
“Our mentality is to go there, not resigned, but ambitious and provoke things, not go there and think ‘we will not qualify anyway’.
“No, not at all. We will go to Munich and have to go there and give ourselves a chance to qualify with everybody believing we can do it.”
Arsenal are likely to be without defender Bacary Sagna who is nursing a long-term leg injury though Germans Per Mertesacker and former Bayern player Lukas Podolski would love nothing more than a victory back in their homeland.
“We have to behave on the football pitch like a team who wants to do it. That will be the task in the preparation. How will we go into the game tactically? I haven’t decided yet. It will be with an ambitious plan, that is for sure.”
“There have been a few wins by Arsenal in the Champions League that we are all very proud of. We just have to convince ourselves that we can do it in Munich as well,” he said.
“Yes, the chance is small, but the chance makes the impossible possible. That would be a great credit for our team if we do it. We have to try to achieve it.”
The Bavarians, on the other hand, are enjoying a sparkling season and despite three key absences, should advance to the quarter-finals and a step closer to a Wembley final.
“At the moment everything seems to work perfectly,” said Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer after his team twice came from a goal down to beat Fortuna Dusseldorf 3-2 on Saturday and go 20 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.
“We showed courage to come back twice and that speaks volumes of our team spirit and our desire to win every game,” he said.
Wary of last season’s implosion when they ended up with no title at all, club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, however, warned of becoming complacent.
“The Champions League does not forgive any mistakes,” Rummenigge told reporters.
Meanwhile, Malaga have used medieval imagery in a promotional video for their Champions League last-16 second leg at home to Porto, seeking inspiration for an historic performance from the Spanish debutantes today.
Goalkeeper Willy Caballero carries a shield, defender Jesus Gamez the club colours, and forward Julio Baptista hammers out a Malaga crest in a fiery forge, while the strapline challenges fans: “We are ready. Are you?”
The club from the Costa del Sol must overturn a 1-0 scoreline from the first leg in Portugal last month if they are to oust the two-times European champions, and continue their continental adventure into the quarter-finals.
“We are at home, in front of our own fans and we have to make the most of it,” Malaga’s Porto-born midfielder Duda told reporters yesterday.
“The players, the staff and everyone else knows this is the most important game in Malaga’s history.”Agencies