Bayern Munich and Arsenal were almost inevitably paired together again in the Champions League round-of-16 draw – but there are no guarantees it will be the same outcome as before.
The Gunners could have done no more than win Group A to give themselves the best possible chance of the most straightforward tie possible to begin the knockout stage, and it is to their credit that they took full advantage to claim top spot when Paris Saint-Germain slipped up.
However, the problem was that Arsenal could have been drawn to play Bayern or Real Madrid, who both finished as runners-up, and fortune was against them once more as they were pitted against the Bavarian giants in the last 16 for the third time in five years.
Arsene Wenger’s side have bowed out at this exact stage of Europe’s elite club competition in each of the last six seasons and the bookmakers are offering only 2/5 that it will happen again.
In 2013 and 2014, Bayern won the first leg at the Emirates Stadium by a two-goal margin, leaving Arsenal a mountain to climb at the Allianz Arena, and on the first of those occasions they almost reached the summit for they ultimately only bowed out on away goals.
The following year they drew 1-1 in Germany after falling behind and so never had a chance of turning the tie around, but at least both of those results on FC Hollywood’s own pitch suggest 7/4 that Arsenal avoid defeat again this time represents very good value.
The worry, however, is that in last season’s group stage, Bayern dished out a 5-1 thrashing to the North Londoners in Munich.
Yet that came after Arsenal had triumphed 2-0 at the Emirates, so the English club’s record of winning the battles, if not necessarily the wars, is actually pretty respectable.
The difference now, of course, is that the order of the two legs is ‘flipped’ from previously as they finished the other way around in their groups, so Arsenal will know exactly what they need to do to progress when they host the Bundesliga champions on March 7.
If they can gain another positive result at the Allianz, this could be the time when Wenger’s men finally make the breakthrough and end their last-16 hoodoo against a Bayern side who lost to both Atletico Madrid and Russian rookies Rostov in the round-robin phase.