International Soccer

Stoppage Time: Arsenal should fear the worst against Bayern

By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) - Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm has said in the buildup to Wednesday's Champions League match with Arsenal that he is expecting a tough test against the Gunners and that Arsene Wenger's side appears to be "much stronger" this year.

For Arsenal, that is about the worst thing the club could hear.

While it is true Wenger's team is in better form than when the two sides met one year ago, the best chance the London club has to upset last season's champions is for Bayern to overlook them.

But it doesn't sound like that is going to happen.

Last year, Bayern toyed with Arsenal in London in the first leg, leaving the Emirates Stadium with a 3-1 win to take firm control of the two-legged affair.

However, Bayern allowed itself to get complacent in the return leg in Munich as Arsenal claimed a 2-0 win but was eliminated on away goals.

"That game is a warning sign to us," Lahm said. "We had been very good in London - we thought nothing can happen to us in the return leg. All of a sudden you are 2-0 down and there are still some minutes to play.

"It shows that things can go really quickly in the Champions League. We will have that in the back of our minds."

Bayern survived the brief scare from Arsenal and went on to win the Champions League last season, and the German outfit is once again a firm favorite to claim Europe's top club prize.

After becoming the first German team to win the treble last season, Bayern has become even better this term, winning 20 of its last 21 games in all competitions and doing so with minimal effort.

The club yielded just 10 goals in that 21-game span, and the only blemish - a 3-2 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League - came after Bayern had a 2-0 lead and nothing to play for as the club had already clinched a spot in the next round.

So what reason is there to think things will be any better for Arsenal this time around?

The first leg in London last year illustrated the gap in class between the teams as Bayern's midfield completely dominated the match and had the club in front by two goals just 21 minutes into the contest.

Arsenal pulled to within 2-1 in the second half after a goalkeeping error from Bayern netminder Manuel Neuer, but it was a rare chance for the home side and the Bavarians made it 3-1 before the final whistle.

The side that Bayern manager Pep Guardiola will put out on Wednesday will look a lot like the team that stepped onto the field at the Emirates Stadium last season, minus winger Franck Ribery.

Bayern is even better defensively this season and the club is deeper than it was last year, which isn't a promising prospect for an Arsenal side dealing with injury problems as well as an off-field distraction.

Winger Theo Walcott and midfielder Aaron Ramsey are two key players who won't be at Wenger's disposal on Wednesday, while striker Olivier Giroud will struggle to be fully focused after admitting to an extramarital affair over the weekend, which led to Wenger resting the forward for the team's 2-1 FA Cup win over Liverpool on Sunday.

Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker knows his team must be in top form, but he also feels as though his team has learned from last season's narrow defeat and is in a better place mentally heading into the matchup.

"We have to go for two perfect games against them (Bayern)," Mertesacker said. "We know we can beat them now, so maybe mentally we are in a better condition that last year. We respected them too much in the first leg then, so it was too easy for them. Maybe we have learned something from those lessons and will do better this time."

Maybe Arsenal has learned, but unfortunately for the Gunners, so has Bayern.

This time around, when Bayern has its foot on Arsenal's throat, don't expect the German side to remove it.

02/17 15:02:31 ET

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