Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich, 2014 UEFA Champions league draw: Gunners improved for rematch, but Bayern still favourites

Stuart Franklin

Defending champions Bayern Munich will have to beat Arsenal to progress from the first knockout round of the Champions League, in what should be an intriguing match-up.

In what was perhaps an inevitable result, Arsenal paid the price for finishing second in their group by coming up against the Champions, Bayern Munich.

The German side will be clear favourites to give the Gunners another early exit in the competition, but Arsene Wenger's men are much-improved this year and currently sit top of the Premier League table. The last time these two sides met in the competition was just last year - victory went to Bayern, but Arsenal did pull off a remarkable win at the Allianz Arena.

The good news for Arsenal is that since then, they're playing much better football. The bad news is that so are Bayern - Pep Guardiola's men will be strongly fancied to go through here.


Arsenal were left kicking themselves after throwing away their final group game against Napoli, when a point would've been good enough to finish top. However, considering they were unfortunate enough to have been drawn into the group of death, merely progressing is no small achievement. They picked up a couple of excellent results, including defeating Napoli 2-0 at the Emirates and snatching victory from Borussia Dortmund away at the fortress Westfalenstadion. The Gunners have also continued to defy expectations at the top of the Premier League, though their opponents' inability to beat middling teams with any consistency has been as significant as any leap in quality Arsenal may have made from last season. They certainly aren't a side without weaknesses -- as their reliance on Olivier Giroud and Mathieu Flamini demonstrates -- and it remains to be seen whether their undeniably superb start to the season will go the distance.

Key Player: Mesut Özil

Arsenal will be no doubt be looking to Mesut Özil -- on paper the best player in their entire squad -- to find his top form, having only demonstrated his true brilliance in flashes since joining from Real Madrid in the summer. He was pretty much entirely anonymous in the Gunners' defeat to Manchester United in the Premier League a few weeks ago, and it's in the big games that the world class players really need to come to the fore.

Bayern Munich

Last year's winners. Bundesliga title holders. German Cup lifters. Unbeaten in league play. 39 goals in 15 Bundesliga matches.

Must we go on? There's a reason Bayern Munich are the favorites. Until they mentally switched off against Manchester City in their final group stage game, they looked unbeatable. And, with five goals scored against them in Champions League play - three coming from the practically non-essential City match - and only seven in league play, it still seems unlikely that an opposing manager will devise a way of getting past this side. Barring another mental lapse, Bayern will be in Lisbon come May.

Key player: Franck Ribery

Ok, it's really hard to pick one best player from the world's best team. You might want Mario Mandžukić, who's got nine goals already, or Thomas Müller, with seven. Perhaps you prefer the solid defensive work of captain Philipp Lahm, enjoy the youthfulness of Mario Götze, or realize Bastisn Schweinsteiger is the master of midfield. And Dante has some cool hair, nein? See, it's nearly impossible, isn't it? But there's a reason Ribéry is up for the Ballon d'Or. He was essential in Bayern's treble-winning side and he remains essential in this team as well. At 30 years old, he's still troubling defenders, using his skills with the ball at his feet to get in behind and, often, to provide an assist.

Key Matchup: Philipp Lahm vs. Mesut Özil

Moving Philipp Lahm from full-back to midfield has been one of Pep Guardiola's strangest moves, and while it certainly seems to have worked out so far, it'll be interesting to see how he can get a grip on a genuinely world-class opponent in the shape of his international teammate Ozil.

In what could be a very tight and nervy game, Arsenal will be looking for a decisive piece of skill or imagination from their record signing, and it'll be Lahm's job to make sure that doesn't happen. If Arsenal don't win this battle, their chances of progression look slim.

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