UEFA Champions League: A look ahead to Arsenal-Bayern and Porto-Malaga

It looks every bit like a mismatch that could get ugly, but there is something about the Bayern Munich-Arsenal Champions League Round of 16 match-up that suggest it could wind up being far more competitive than anyone could imagine.

On paper it should be a romp. Bayern Munich enters the series looking unstoppable, having torn through the Bundesliga, and their Champions League group with ease. Suffocating opponents with a relentless attack and organized defense, Bayern has slowly but surely climbed to the level of true Champions League title contender based on their imposing form.

Then you have Arsenal, limping into the series off another embarrassing cup exit, most recently an FA Cup defeat against Blackburn. The Gunners are in fifth place in the English Premier League and in danger of finishing without a trophy for the eighth straight year. Arsenal Wenger is lashing out at critics who question his standing as Arsenal manager and there are growing questions about whether he should remain the team’s boss.

You can’t write the Gunners off completely. They still have some young attacking stars in Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere, and a history of stepping their game up in the Champions League.

In Tuesday’s other Round of 16 clash, Portuguese power FC Porto take on Spanish side Malaga in a battle featuring some of Europe’s top attacking talent. The Colombian tandem of Jackson Martinez and James Rodriguez are one of the most exciting duos in Europe and lead the Porto attack, while Spanish striker Isco is the star of a Malaga attack that also features veterans Javier Saviola and Roque Santa Cruz.

Here is a closer look at today’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 matches:

ARSENAL vs. BAYERN MUNICH

2:45pm, Fox Soccer Channel

Players to Watch: ARSENAL- Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta, Laurent Koscielny. BAYERN MUNICH- Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Mario Gomez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Manuel Neuer.

Quick Kicks: These teams last met in the 2004/2005 Champions League Round of 16. Bayern won the series on aggregate in the strength of two Claudio Pizarro goals. Defender Laurent Koscielny remains a question mark for Arsenal due to illness while newly-acquired left back Nacho Monreal is cap-tied and unable to play. Fullback Kieran Gibbs is also out for Arsenal. Jerome Boateng is suspended for Bayern, while Holger Badstuber ( knee injury) and Claudio Pizarro (sick) will also miss the match.

PORTO vs. MALAGA

2:45pm, MSG+, Fox Soccer Plus

Players to Watch: PORTO- Jackson Martinez, James Rodriguez, Joao Moutinho, Lucho Gonzalez, Silvestre Varela. MALAGA- Isco, Roque Santa Cruz, Javier Saviola, Welligton, Lucas Piazon.

Quick Kicks: Porto is riding a 32-match unbeaten streak in Portuguese League play, a stretch that spans more than a calendar year and has them in line for another Portuguese title. Malaga currently sit in fourth place in the Spanish Primera, winners of three of their past four matches. Belgian midfield Steven Defour is out with a thigh injury for Porto while Eliseu is sidelined with a knee injury for Malaga.

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13 Responses to UEFA Champions League: A look ahead to Arsenal-Bayern and Porto-Malaga

  1. 2324 says:

    Please tell me Gooch is starting

    • Nate Dollars says:

      um, pretty sure gooch will not be starting. he’s at malaga purely for depth. if this was a match against a bottom-feeder la liga team a couple days after a tough game, then he might start; not against porto in champions league.

      hope i’m wrong.

    • RK says:

      Not even on the bench.

  2. Neyland says:

    As an Arsenal fan, I’m terrified for what this evening has in store.

  3. DC Josh says:

    Arsenal will get trounced. Bayern are on top of the world right now.

  4. Raymon says:

    For their long term health, Arsenal probably would be better off losing and crashing out of CL. Big game wins here and there only delay the inevitable day of reckoning. I tremble to even question whether Wenger is still the right man for that job, but the questions have long lingered (at least for the last 3 years), and everyone but Arsenal ownership are asking them. I wish them an entertaining and non-embarrassing game. But Bayern may very well be the mirror that Arsenal need to see that they are two teams with opposite trajectories, and it’s time or change in North London. Of course, if Arsenal end up with a convincing win, then I automatically withdraw my comments with no further action necessary and will be forced to eat humble pie and kiss Wenger’s ring.

  5. Scott says:

    My hope as an Arsenal fan is that Bayern keep up their average play away from home in the Champions league, just 1-1-1.

  6. biff says:

    You can bet the farm that Lukas Podolski would give just about anything to score a couple of goals against his buddies on the German national team and against his former club, where he fizzled. I have the feeling Poldi is going to choke, but who knows. Maybe he has the game of his life London. In any case, Bayern will be playing some heavy-duty mind games to try to rattle him.

    • 2324 says:

      how would you rate him so far? Under achieving or Doing a decent job considering the money

      • Jay says:

        In my opinion if your meaning Podolski I would have to say its still undecided. I mean after watching this Arsenal team I see why Robin rolled out and didn’t want to stay. The weakness of this team is a weak mid field both offensively and defensively. While I like Theo out wide the rest are average at best when compared to the heavy hitters of the world.Plus they don’t have a good compliment striker to go with him. I doubt any striker would look impressive with the team they have now against top competition.