Arsenal face Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
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ON SONG IN EUROPE
KEY BATTLE - FLAMINI v LAHM
In the lead up to Wednesday's match, Per Mertesacker spoke about the need to "destroy" Bayern Munich's possession-based game. Arsenal's destroyer-in-chief will undoubtedly be Mathieu Flamini, whose experience, energy and aggression will be vital in breaking up the visitors' attacks and frustrating them in midfield.
The Frenchman's contest with Phillip Lahm will be instructive. Since Pep Guardiola's arrival at the Allianz Arena, Lahm - a full-back by trade - has been moved into a defensive midfield role and has flourished. The Germany international is confident by nature, and recently declared that he "always thought" he could make it in midfield.
Lahm rarely puts a foot wrong with his passing, as a 92.6 per cent accuracy rate in the Champions League attests, and he has won an impressive 65.5 per cent of his overall duels. Flamini, however, is likely to provide him with a far sterner test than he has received so far and will relish being thrown into the heat of the battle with the aim of "destroying" the European champions' possession.
Keeping the ball from Bayern will be no easy task, and winning it back as early as possible will be absolutely crucial if the Gunners are to counter-attack speedily. That is where Flamini will be expected to thrive, and as his display against Liverpool on Sunday showed, it is one he should enjoy.
ARSENAL v BAYERN MUNICH - MATCH FACTS
- This is the third time that Arsenal and Bayern Munich are meeting in the last 16 of the Champions League. The Bavarian club have progressed both times (2004/05 and 2012/13)
- Arsenal have lost their last three home games against German clubs in the Champions League (v Schalke and Bayern Munich last season, v Borussia Dortmund this season)
- Bayern Munich have won their last two away games against English teams in the Champions League, both with a 3-1 scoreline (v Arsenal and Manchester City)
- Arsenal have lost only three of their 18 Champions League knockout games at home (10 wins, 5 draws): against Chelsea in 2003/04 (quarter-finals), Manchester Utd in 2008/09 (semi-finals) and Bayern Munich in 2012/13 (last 16)
- Bayern Munich have reached the final of the Champions League in three of the last four campaigns. They are the defending champions after last season’s win against Borussia Dortmund
- Arsenal are the last team to keep a clean sheet against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, when the Gunners won 2-0 at the Allianz Arena last March
- Bayern Munich have won their last five Champions League games in the knockout stages (13 goals for, 1 against)
- The Bavarians have also won their last seven Champions League games played outside the Allianz Arena
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