Roll up, roll up, the circus is back in town. Yes, the Champions League has returned, but now the cream of Europe number only sixteen . With the phoney war of the group stages having been completed, combat can resume with the more traditional methods of home and away legs, aggregate scores and away goals counting double (only in the event of a tie of course). If you close your eyes and concentrate hard enough, you can almost convince yourself that it's just like the dear old European Cup.
Arsenal don't care what it is, they just want to progress beyond the quarter-finals. Their latest effort continues tonight , when they play Bayern Munich at the Olympic Stadium. Arsenal's approach to this game seems to have been infected with an air of resignation. The accolades that rained down upon them after their unbeaten league season have dried up and at present,they are finding themselves portrayed as being distinctly mortal. This supposed vulnerability is not helped by the absense of Sol Campbell (definitely) and Ashley Cole (maybe) from tonight's line-up, nor the presence of Jens Lehmann, whom, perhaps unfairly, the club just do not appear to trust. Much reference has been made to last year's European campaign, when defeat to Chelsea ended what many felt was their best chance of winning the trophy. The perception is that this Arsenal team does not possess the mental fortitude to win this most demanding of tournaments, and so it will ever be.
Londonist does not agree. In Arsenal's last league game, they ripped poor Crystal Palace apart, with Henry ending his recent duck and Edu returning to provide the midfield support for Viera that has been so obviously lacking. The gooner attack is firing again, just in time for tonight's game. Bayern are a strong side, but not a patch on their 2001 vintage . We expect them to score against a dodgy Arsenal defence, but equally, we don't feel that they can keep out Thierry and co. Londonist predicts a score draw, which will keep this tie very much alive.
The game is shown live on ITV1 tonight, with kick-off at 7.45pm.