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Champions League: Arsenal fly to Germany hoping to prove themselves against Bayern

Ospina could start in goal as Gunners look to show Sanchez and Ozil that the club means business

14 February, 2017 — By Richard Osley

Alexis Sanchez will see how the Gunners fare against Europe’s best

ARSENAL have flown to Germany for their latest attempt at knocking Bayern Munich out of the Champions League and a chance to make contract extensions more attractive to their biggest stars, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

While Arsene Wenger’s men hold a record number of appearances in Europe’s premier club tournament among British teams, they have traditionally struggled in the knockout stages, not least against the German heavyweights who have sent them out of the competition three times since 2005.

They met in the group stages last year too, but while Arsenal earned a hard-fought 2-0 win at the Emirates, they were delivered a crushing reminder of the pecking order when they visited Bayern’s 70,000-seat Allianz Arena and suffered a humbling 5-1 reverse. Bayern, as usual, are top of the German Bundesliga having lost just once all season and are ready and waiting for their clash with the Gunners tomorrow night after winning away at lowly Ingolstadt at the weekend with two late goals. Former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben was among the scorers.

Alex Iwobi boards the plane to Bavaria

Ahead of tomorrow night’s clash there is perhaps more riding on this visit to Bavaria however, with speculation mounting that it could be Arsene Wenger’s last attempt to win the Champions League with Arsenal, a feat which evaded him even in more successful times at the club. He suggested at the weekend that he was not thinking of leaving the Emirates but his contract expires at the end of the season and how Arsenal fare in this competition, and the FA Cup, is expected to influence his next move.

The same might be said for Ozil and Sanchez, whose contracts are winding down and who will be assessing the chances of winning silverware if they sign on for further seasons in north London and with tempting alternative offers apparently emerging elsewhere. Defeating Bayern would be an opportunity for their team-mates to show that they mean business and are ready to mount their best challenge for the top prize since the Champions League final loss to Barcelona, now more than a decade ago.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has featured in a more central role in recent weeks as he finally tries to hold down a regular starting place, told the Arsenal website today (Tuesday): “We’ve had good experiences and we’ve had bad experiences and you know, there’s times when we’ve struggled against them and it proves what a great team they are, and there’s times where we’ve turned up and we’ve done really well and it proves they’re not immortal. They’re a very good team, but so are we if we play as good as we can on the day. We can cause them enough troubles and go on and win.”

Ospina in training earlier today (Tuesday)

He must now wait to see whether he will be among the starting eleven with Granit Xhaka, serving a suspension on the domestic front for his red card against Burnley, pressing for a return to duty in the middle of the pitch against Bayern. Wenger will be wary of Xhaka’s disciplinary problems since joining in the summer and can ill-afford to have another major European fixture made harder by a sending off. Mohamed Elneny, back from the African Cup of Nations, where he scored in the final for Egypt (but lost to the Cameroon), will also want game time, but Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey are still sidelined through injury.

Meanwhile, David Ospina has been tipped to replace Petr Cech in goal for Arsenal as Wenger begins to deliberate over who is better between the sticks, and with speculation growing that the club will be looking to acquire a new goalkeeper in the summer.

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