Sports

PEP: ARSENAL CAN 
MAKE US 'SUFFER'

ROUND OF 16, FIRST LEG

ARSENAL v BAYERN MUNICH

(Tomorrow, 3.40am, SingTel mio TV Ch 111)

Pep Guardiola is wary of the threat posed by Arsenal when the Champions League holders return to the Emirates Stadium for the first leg of their last-16 tie tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

It is almost exactly a year since Bayern eliminated Arsenal at the same stage of European club football's premier competition, helped via a first-leg 3-1 win in north London.

Now they renew rivalries against an Arsenal side bidding for revenge against the tournament favourites, with former Barcelona boss Guardiola believing the Gunners remain a force to be reckoned with.

"Arsenal always have good shape and good movement," said Guardiola.

"They are always organised with the ball and, if we let them have it, we are going to suffer.

"They are going to fight. Arsenal are not a new team to play this competition.

"Always every year, they are there, and I am pretty sure they will play to win the game. It's a good test for us. It will be good to what our level is like in Europe this year."

Bayern are perceived to be even stronger animals themselves this year and have been tipped to become the first side to be crowned champions of Europe in successive seasons in the Champions League era.

AC Milan, back in 1989 and 1990, were the last team to complete such a feat, albeit in the old European Cup format, while a celebrated Bayern side featuring Germany greats Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Mueller won the competition three times in a row from 1974 to 1976.

But Guardiola played down the runaway Bundesliga leaders' chances of making history this time around.

TARGET

"I think our target is play every week better than the last week," he said.

"Retaining the title is so difficult. It hasn't happened for a long time. I am not worried about that.

"I know when we don't win, we are disappointed for the people, but I know how difficult it is in sport to win one year and then the year after."

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger believes belief is the difference between the Arsenal side who lost to Bayern last season and the group preparing to tackle the European champions this term.

The Gunners last advanced to the Champions League quarter-finals in 2010 and lost to Bayern in the last 16 last year.

Tomorrow morning's first leg against Bayern in the last 16 takes place 12 months to the day since a 3-1 home loss to the German giants which cost Wenger's men their place in the next round.

Once more, Arsenal take on a side Wenger believes are the world's best - "at the moment you can't say the opposite (as) they win every game," he said - but the Gunners enter this match on the back of an FA Cup victory over Liverpool, rather than a morale-sapping elimination to lower-league opposition.

"We are in much better mental shape today than we were one year ago," Wenger said.

"We lost against Blackburn at home in the FA Cup (last year) and it was a big disappointment for us. This time we won against Liverpool.

"We have a strong team spirit, a strong desire to do well and a united team.

"I believe we have always had these 
kind of qualities, but we have not always had the belief. The belief is built by the results.

"On that front, we are stronger, of course. We believe we can do it, but that's down to the quality of our performance tomorrow." - Wire Services.

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