1700: Champions League: Bayern Munic
by : Chris Sherrard
If Arsenal are going into the Champions League game with Bayern Munich on Tuesday after their Dutch master Dennis Bergkamp was sent off in the FA Cup on Saturday afternoon, Munich approach the fixture with their very own Holland star in very different form.
Roy Makaay is in scintillating form of late and bagged a hat-trick in an emphatic 5-0 win over former Champions League winners Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. It was a stark message for Arsene Wenger’s stuttering side – beware the Germans!
Munich are clear at the top of the Bundesliga and Makaay took his tally for the season to 12 with the brilliant treble against a struggling Dortmund side. It was Hasan Salihamidzic who got the ball rolling for Felix Magath’s team before the Dutch maestro put his mark on the game and Claudio Pizarro completed the scoring.
You would have to make the German giants favourites to progress over the two legs with Arsenal. Just. But while Bayern have also beat Bayern Leverkusen in recent weeks, they did fall to defeat at the hands of mid-table Arminia Bielefield. So Wenger will know that the team who once approached him to take charge are beatable – if the Gunners play to their peak.
Wenger rested some of his big guns in the FA Cup draw with Sheffield United at the weekend while Bayern went full tilt to keep their nose ahead of defending champions Werder Bremen at the top of the table. So the freshness of the likes of Thierry Henry may just be the edge Arsenal need here.
But Bayern have got infinitely more Champions League pedigree than the Highbury side and that could count for much. Munich know what is needed to progress at this level while Arsenal will be looking to sail into new waters. Magath has got a team of quality internationals to pick from and, aside from Makaay, Arsenal will need to hold players like Ze Roberto and Ballack in check as well as get past the combative Lucio, Kovacs and Oliver Kahn. It will be a tough, grinding couple of fixtures, that is for sure.
Recent defeats against Bolton and Manchester United as well as the draw with Sheffield United at the weekend suggest an improvement is needed in Arsenal’s form if they are to progress much further than this stage in Europe. But on their day they are capable of playing some of the best football anywhere on the continent and know that if they play to their best they have the ability to knock Bayern out.
Makaay against Arsenal’s defence – minus Sol Campbell – should be as interesting a battle as Henry up against Kahn and Lucio. What is certain is Munich couldn’t wish for a better platform to approach this fixture with the Gunners and with their Dutch striker clearly in top form they, too, will be confident of progression.