ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger has challenged his players to produce a performance which will define their careers and knock Bayern Munich out of the Champions League against the odds tonight.
The runaway Bundesliga leaders look all set to take their place in the quarter-finals having delivered a European masterclass in their 3-1 victory in north London three weeks ago.
Bayern’s home defensive record is formidable and they have not conceded three since losing to Inter Milan two years ago, while this season they have let in only ten goals in 25 Bundesliga matches. Despite his side having travelled to Bavaria without injured England midfielder Jack Wilshere, set to be out for three weeks because of an ankle problem, and first-choice goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny rested, Wenger insists now is the perfect moment for his team to return all his belief with what would go down as one of the greatest European comebacks.
“I am convinced that if this team can find a big game, with a big win, you will see a completely different animal,” Wenger said at the Allianz Arena last night.
“This season we have fought to find that in the big games and we have another opportunity tomorrow night and I hope the team takes this chance.”
Despite everything seemingly stacked against them, Wenger insists it is not a case of Mission: Impossible.
“It is a difficult task, we know that, but we think it is not impossible. The only way to make it possible is to have a real go and play at our best tomorrow night. That is what we will do.
“I am confident we will be completely focused and up for it, and give it our best shot.
“Football is football – everything is possible.”
Wilshere’s ankle problem will also rule him out of England’s World Cup qualifying double-header against San Marino and Montenegro.
Wenger said: “It is a big blow for us, of course, but he was out for 17 months and we had to deal with it, so three weeks compared to that is something that we can deal with.”
Wenger, though, refused to be drawn on exactly why he decided to leave Szczesny in London, and is likely to hand a first start in more than a year to Lukasz Fabianski.
For Bayern, Franck Ribery is out with an ankle injury, while Bastian Schweinsteiger and defender Jerome Boateng are suspended.
Defender Holger Badstuber is out for the season with a knee injury.
Heynckes said Ribery’s injury was not serious but the coach could not give a timeframe for his return. Ribery’s place is likely to be taken by Arjen Robben.
If Arsenal are eliminated, England won’t have a team in the last eight for the first time since the 1995-96 season.