Arsenal face a daunting task of going to Bayern Munich tonight needing to overturn a 3-1 defeat from the home leg of the tie three weeks ago. Bayern completely out thought and outplayed Arsenal that night and were good value for their win. Their three away goals were surely more than enough to see them safely through to the quarter finals.
Only the most optimistic of Arsenal fans could give them any hope of winning through to the last eight. They do have their pride to play for though and for professional footballers that must surely count for something. The wrong approach tonight could see Arsenal on the end of a very bad result and that cannot be allowed to happen.
I can't honestly see Arsenal progressing to the last eight, but there is always a chance that they can win on the night. Bayern are an excellent team and a victory away to them would surely be a great boost to the team. If Arsenal are to manage to get anything out of the game they will have to be at their very best.
In team news it seems Jack Wilshere has picked up an ankle injury and will be out for three weeks. At least it's not the same ankle which kept him out for well over a year not so long ago. His energy and drive will be missed, but if he's back within the projected three weeks he will hopefully only miss the league game at Swansea next Saturday.
The other absentee is Bacary Sagna who has still not recovered from his injury and Carl Jenkinson will again deputise for him. Sagna had not being playing well before his injury and Jenkinson has looked quite good filling in for him recently. He'll have his work cut out against a very good Bayern team, but he didn't let himself down in the first leg.
It also seems that Wojciech Szczesny will not be traveling as he is to be rested for this game. Lukasz Fabianski seems to be the goalkeeper to profit from Szczesny's absence and he hasn't played in a long time due to injury. He looks like a very good keeper, but when things go wrong for him they tend to go badly wrong.
He's had many chances before and looked like he might finally be taking them until Szczesny's emergence. That coincided with an injury for him and his Arsenal prospects have never recovered. He has a chance tonight to show that he still had something to offer the club despite his desire to move elsewhere.
Lukas Podolski is another absentee and I think he is badly missed at the moment. He has apparently being carrying an injury for a while and his appearances recently have been limited. When he plays in the front three with Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud I think Arsenal look their most dangerous in attack.
Both Walcott and Giroud have been misfiring recently and I wonder if the absence of Podolski has been a factor in that. His divert from the left has made plenty of chances for both of them and he had his fair share of goals from his wide role too. Hopefully he can recover quickly enough to play a part in Arsenal's crucial last 10 league games.
Both Kieran Gibbs and Abou Diaby should be fit to return to the squad, but match fitness is a different thing. I hope Gibbs can play with Nacho Monreal cup tied and Thomas Vermaelen really struggling at left back in the first leg. Vermaelen's form in the centre of defence has not been great and Bayern found it too easy to expose him at left back.
I can't imagine Diaby will play even if he is passed fit, as he is so injury prone. It would be a big risk to play him and it's not a game Arsenal should be taking risks with players in. There are 10 league games left this season and Arsenal need every single player available to them to be able to make a contribution in those games.
The most important thing for the team is to finish in the top four in the league and it's going to be a tough slog. They will probably have to win at least eight of their last 10 games to do so and that would require a radical change in the consistency they have shown so far this season. It's not an impossible task, but it is out of their own hands at the moment.
As for tonight there are rumours of Arsenal playing a weakened team, but the options Arsene Wenger has are somewhat limited by all of the absentees. He needs to put out his strongest team possible in my opinion or it could turn out to be a very embarrassing result. This Bayern team are very good and it will take an exceptional team to stop them in the Champions League this season.
They have a huge lead in their domestic league and the German league is a very competitive one. Their away record in the league is quite incredible with only one goal conceded in 12 away games so far. Their home record isn't quite so perfect though with one defeat in 13 games and nine goals conceded.
With the players absent I would imagine Aaron Ramsey and Gervinho will come in for Wilshere and Podolski with Laurent Koscielny possibly playing in defence too. The left back slot will be filled by either Vermaelen or Gibbs, but I think Gibbs will play as Monreal is available to play there in the league if he suffers a reaction to his injury. It could be a long hard night for the players and fans alike, but hopefully the team can take something out of the game if not the tie.
A good defensive performance would be a great thing to see with Arsenal also posing a threat on the break. Both Walcott and Gervinho have loads of pace and Arsenal will have to utilise that whenever they can. I'm not convinced by Gervinho at all, but hopefully he can have one of his better games.
The midfield need to perform like they did in the second half of the home leg and the wide players need to get back and help their full backs every time Bayern go forward. It won't be easy but if every player does their job properly and concentrates for the full 90 minutes the team can at least know they have given their all. If that leads to a positive result on the night it would be a great thing.
I'm not for a minute suggesting Arsenal will make it through to the next round, but I would be very happy if they didn't lose tonight's game all things considered. It might give the team some confidence for the struggle that lies ahead to qualify for next season's competition.
Of course life for Arsenal had to be more than just qualifying for the Champions League. That in itself cannot be the goal at the start of the season and the club have to genuinely start challenging for trophies again. That will require some real investment this summer and the money is there to do just that.
Champions League qualification will mean there is more money available, but we cannot be in the exact same situation at this time next season. Progress has to be made and had to be seen to be made or something will have to change at the club. The current team have stagnated as also-rans and this had to be the last season of that. The future we are led to believe the club are planning for had to arrive at some time soon as the present cost of building for it is a very high one in my opinion.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.