Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm has told The Observer that Champions League opponents Arsenal appear “much stronger” this year.
European champions Bayern head to the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday for the first leg of their last-16 tie looking for a repeat of their performance against the same opposition last season, when they recorded a 3-1 victory in London.
However, the Gunners nearly caused a major upset when they recorded a 2-0 victory at the Allianz Arena in the second leg, with Bayern ultimately progressing on away goals.
“That game is a warning sign to us,” Lahm said. "We had been very good in London -- we thought nothing can happen to us in the return leg. All of a sudden you are 2-0 down and there are still some minutes to play.
“It shows that things can go really quickly in the Champions League. We will have that in the back of our minds.”
Lahm considers Arsenal to be “top opposition” and, with so many of his fellow Germany internationals now plying their trade there, he has been watching their performances throughout the campaign.
“I follow Arsenal a bit more this year and they've left a good impression,” he said. “They're fighting for the championship. That's not a coincidence: I believe they have developed as a team.
“They've become much stronger, the squad is more balanced, and they still play the way Arsenal always play. They want to have the ball, they like playing it short, and they have outstanding individuals.”
The 30-year-old hopes that Arsenal stay true to their philosophy during their tie, adding: “We have always found it easier, and still do, when the opponent plays football as well, when they don't just think in defensive terms, don't just sit inside their penalty box.
“It's just nicer when the opponent plays football. But let's wait and see. I hope they won't punish us by doing just that.”
Germany international Mesut Ozil, meanwhile, has said he is excited to be coming up against Bayern, even if he believes Pep Guardiola has improved last season’s Treble winners.
“I have huge respect for Bayern,” he told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “They are even better than they were last year, but we're not going to hide. Anything is possible over two legs. I'm the kind of player who loves games like these.”
Information from the Press Association was used in this report.