Arsene Wenger is convinced Arsenal have learned from being knocked out of last season’s Champions League and can use the experience to return the favour to Bayern Munich.
Jupp Heynckes’ sensation Bayern brushed Arsenal aside in the first leg at the Emirates in the round of 16, but were beaten 2-0 in the return leg. Arsenal’s Champions League campaign was over due to Bayern’s three away goals.
But the north-London club have the chance to avenge last season’s heartache when they take on the German giants at home on February 19 before the second leg at the Allianz Arena on March 11.
And Wenger believes that his players now know how to take on the Champions League-, Bundesliga- and German Cup-winners.
‘We know them better and we will hopefully be in a better condition than last year,’ he said.
Gunners skipper Per Mertesacker echoed his manager’s belief that the north-London club can overcome Bayern, but claims the Treble-winners are an even better team under Heynckes’ successor Pep Guardiola.
‘It seems that they are even stronger this year in possession, defensively and how they cope with situations,’ Mertesacker told Sport magazine in an exclusive interview.
‘Their squad is absolutely massive, too, so they are not weaker than last year when we played them.
‘I think, with Guardiola in charge, they are even stronger. We have to respect them, but we are not frightened because we won the second leg against them last season and we played really well.
‘Now we have another chance – and an opportunity to beat the champions. We want to achieve something exceptional this season, so we have to beat the best. That is not only Manchester City and Chelsea. That is Bayern Munich in the Champions League.’
Guardiola’s men are cruising to another Bundesliga title as they top the table by a mammoth 13 points. Ominously for Arsenal fans, on their last outing, they thumped Hamburg 5-0 away, with
Mario Mandzukic bagging a hat-trick.
Written by Steve Milne @stevenmilnelive