English pair seeking European miracles

Arsenal and Manchester City have mountains to climb if their campaigns are not to end against Bayern Munich and Barcelona respectively

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 March, 2014, 8:41pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 March, 2014, 8:41pm

Arsenal and Manchester City face monumental tasks when they look to overturn 2-0 deficits in the second legs of their last-16 ties, against Bayern Munich and Barcelona respectively.

Arsenal face Pep Guardiola's red-hot Bayern at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night after goals from Toni Kroos and Thomas Mueller condemned them to defeat in the first leg.

City, meanwhile, travel to the Camp Nou on Wednesday with their own mountain to climb after goals from Lionel Messi and Dani Alves gave Barcelona a commanding advantage.

The statistics are against us, but let's make sure that the performance goes for us
Arsene Wenger

In the week's other last-16 ties, Atletico Madrid face AC Milan at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday night holding a 1-0 lead, before Paris St Germain host Bayer Leverkusen at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday. They hold a 4-0 advantage.

Arsenal, third in the Premier League, have the unenviable task of trying to become only the second team to beat the runaway Bundesliga leaders at home this season.

They can take heart from last season's visit to the same venue, when they won 2-0 and only failed to make it through to the quarter-finals by virtue of an away goal after Bayern had won the first leg 3-1 in London.

Arsene Wenger will be buoyed by his team's 4-1 win over Everton in the FA Cup quarter-final on Saturday, which represents their most realistic chance of a trophy this season.

If we keep the ball, we'll get into the quarter-finals, if they control it, Arsenal will go through
Pep Guardiola

"Psychologically, it puts us in a good mind for Munich," said Wenger. "We can be inspired by our focus and our desire. It was a high-quality performance from the first minute to the last minute and we can go to Bayern in the same spirit.

"The statistics are against us, but let's make sure that the performance goes for us, and then we have a chance."

Wenger was pleased by the display of Mesut Ozil who scored the opening goal, provided the assist for Arsenal's fourth and put in a vastly improved performance ahead of the must-win second leg.

"I would like him to find the right balance between being a provider and finisher," Wenger said.

"At the moment the balance is a bit detrimental to the finishing. His strong side is providing. But he is pacy, much quicker than people think, and with that technical quality and that pace, if he gets into the right areas and with the service we have, he can score goals."

Wenger added that he was hopeful of emulating last season's win in Germany.

"We have to go out there and go for it," he said. "It is down to scoring the first goal. After that, anything is possible."

Wenger has a few injury concerns, with Laurent Koscielny doubtful after missing the victory over Everton due to a hamstring injury sustained on international duty with France. Aaron Ramsey and Kim Kallstrom, with thigh and back problems respectively, are not likely to return until the weekend's game against Tottenham Hotspur.

Buoyant Bayern have no such worries and welcomed back France winger Franck Ribery, Swiss star Xherdan Shaqiri and Germany's Thomas Mueller in Saturday's 6-1 rout of Wolfsburg.

All three got on the scoresheet, while Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic came off the bench to hit the net twice.

Despite that romp, however, Bayern manager Pep Guardiola said his team could ill afford to allow Arsenal the same first-half chances which Wolfsburg enjoyed.

"If we give Arsenal too much possession, we will have big, big problems," warned Guardiola, who rested Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger in Wolfsburg.

"If we keep the ball, we'll get into the quarter-finals, if they control it, Arsenal will go through."

City's task against Barcelona is every bit as daunting as Arsenal's and they will have to accomplish it with manager Manuel Pellegrini absent from the touchline as he serves the first game of a two-match ban. The 60-year-old was punished after remarks he made about Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson being "not impartial" in the first leg.

His comments related to Eriksson's decision to award a penalty and send off City's Martin Demichelis despite his challenge on Messi appearing to take place outside the box.

After reluctantly accepting the ban, Pellegrini said "revenge" was on his agenda.

After City's 2-1 shock defeat in the FA Cup to holders Wigan on Sunday, the Chilean denied that he had left first-choice regulars Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Aleksandar Kolarov on the bench with one eye on the Barcelona game. "No, I didn't leave them on the bench because we have to play Barcelona," Pellegrini said.