BY DAN KARELL
Bayern Munich can extend their winning streak to twelve matches in all competitions, if they defeat Arsenal on Wednesday night at the Allianz Arena.
The German side defeated the Gunners in London on February 19, striking a dagger into the hearts of the English side. The 3-1 scoreline gives Bayern plenty of maneuverability, with even a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal on Wednesday being enough to see Munich through to the quarterfinals.
Malaga, whose season has been a microcosm of the undervalued talent available in La Liga, will host former champions FC Porto, needing to win by a margin of two goals to proceed in the Champions League. Porto have not lost since early December, and will look to forward Jackson Martinez, who has scored 28 goals in 35 matches in all competitions for the Portuguese powerhouse.
An Arsenal defeat would almost definitely assure the club of an eighth successive season without a trophy, following a run where the club won eight trophies between 1998-2005. Manager Arsene Wenger has faced his toughest season in the present time, and has struggled to get the team back in Champions League contention for next season.
Malaga were left for dead at the start of this season, after selling Santiago Cazorla to Arsenal and Salomon Rondon to Rubin Kazan. Yet they won their Champions League group, beating the likes of AC Milan, Zenit St. Petersburg, and Anderlecht along the way.
If Malaga prove anything, it’s when the odds are against them, they produce moments of unexpected brilliance.
Here is a closer look at Wednesday’s round of 16 matchups:
BAYERN MUNICH VS. ARSENAL
3:45pm, Fox Soccer Channel
Players to Watch: BAYERN MUNICH: Mario Gomez, Arjen Robben, Toni Kroos, Luiz Gustavo; ARSENAL: Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud, Mikel Arteta, Santiago Cazorla.
Quick Kicks: Both Bayern and Arsenal will be missing key players for this match, through injury or suspension. Bayern Munich will be without Bastian Schweinsteiger and Jerome Boateng, both missing through suspension, while Frank Ribery picked up an ankle injury over the weekend. Arsenal will be without starters Bacary Sagna, and Jack Wilshere, after both picked up injuries in training this week, and winger Lukas Podolski won’t make a return to his former club, with Wenger preferring to rest the German, who has been dealing with an injury all season. On the plus side for both teams, Arjen Robben should make his return to the field for Bayern, while left back Kieran Gibbs has been included in Arsenal’s squad, after missing the last six weeks with injury.
MALAGA VS. PORTO
3:45pm, Fox Soccer Plus
Players to Watch: MALAGA: Isco, Joaquin, Javier Saviola, Roque Santa Cruz; PORTO: Jackson Martinez, James Rodriguez, Fernando, Varela.
Quick Kicks: Porto could come into this match a bit shorthanded. While their league form has continued to shine, they have been without Joao Moutinho and Eliaquim Mangala for the last two matches due to injury, and they are a doubt to feature on Wednesday. Malaga meanwhile get Julio Baptista back in the squad, and a very fresh Isco and Joaquin for the match, with the latter two sitting for the Andalusian side’s match last weekend.
What do you think of today’s matches? Do you see Arsenal having any chance against Bayern? Do you believe Malaga can make it to the next round?
Share your thoughts below.