Guardiola playing the percentages

Bayern coach not sure of 100 percent dominance over Arsenal as title holders travel to London in Champions League.

    Guardiola playing the percentages
    Guardiola estimated that Arsenal would have the ball for at least 15 minutes of their Champions League tie [Reuters]

    Bayern Munich can expect to dominate for 75 minutes against Arsenal on Wednesday – but 90 minutes might be a stretch.

    Pep Guardiola's faint praise of the Gunners ahead of the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie may have been inadvertent, but might not be too far off the mark given the Bavarians' form as they build the defence of three trophies.

    Bayern – who won the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup last season under Jupp Heynckes – are unbeaten in 46 league games, have won their last 13, and their single defeat in Europe against Manchester City came when they had already qualified for the knockouts.

    Having lost at home to Arsenal however on their way to the trophy last year, new coach Guardiola is at least slightly wary.

    You can't dominate for 90 minutes against Arsenal, it's impossible. You can play good and maybe dominate one half or 75 minutes but never the full game.

    Pep Guardiola, Bayern Munich coach

    "It's a good test for us. Tomorrow we will know what our level is in Europe this year," he said in a press conference on Tuesday.

    "You can't dominate for 90 minutes against Arsenal, it's impossible. You can play good and maybe dominate one half or 75 minutes but never the full game."

    While his own team's form has been topsy-turvy this year, Arsene Wenger has not taken Arsenal to second in the English Premier League by accident.

    German defender Per Mertesacker believes last season's 3-1 defeat by Bayern in London, which preceded the away win, can be consigned to history if Arsenal stick to their attacking principles at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night.

    "We have to go for two perfect games against them," he said.

    "We know we can beat them now, so maybe mentally we are in a better condition than last year.

    "We respected them too much in the first leg then, so it was too easy for them."

    Guardiola, who won the European Cup once as a player and twice as Barca coach, said he knew "as a sportsman how difficult it is to win everything one year and then win again."

    Defending the indefensible

    But fit-again winger Arjen Robben thinks Guardiola gives them the best chance of going on to be the first team in the Champions League era to successfully defend the trophy.

    "Especially after last season where we won everything I think it has been good that a fresh wind came in," the 30-year-old Dutch winger, who scored the winner against Dortmund in last year's final, said.

    Wednesday fixtures

    Champions League
    Last 16, first leg

    Arsenal v Bayern Munich
    AC Milan v Atletico Madrid

    "As players we had to be focused from the first day onwards and go with this new coach, and his new plan.

    "We had a great result last year but it's going be a very different game. We're going to try to play our own game and try to win again."

    Wednesday's other tie sees Diego Simeone return to Italy to face some familiar rivals, but this time as the coach of Atletico Madrid.

    Argentinian midfielder Simeone played for Inter Milan between 1997 and 1999, and will come up against AC Milan at the San Siro stadium that the two Serie A teams share.

    "I spent two extraordinary years here," Simeone said.

    "Coming back to play here is an emotional experience. I know the San Siro atmosphere. Any footballer in the world wants to play in a stadium like the San Siro."

    In past years, seven-time winners Milan would have been favourites in this tie.

    But Atletico travel to Italy with their tails up, joint-top of the Spanish Primera Division and with a realistic chance of serious progress in the Champions League, while Milan are ninth in Serie A and 31 points behind leaders Juventus.

    It represents the Spanish team's best chance of reaching the quarters for the first time since 1997, when Simeone played for Atletico.

    "We are facing a powerful Milan, which has had some extremely important achievements," Simeone said.

    "But Atletico is also a team with history."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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