Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes his side have a realistic chance of pulling off what would be miraculous recovery from 2-0 down to beat Bayern Munich in the second leg of their Champions League on Tuesday night, but only if his side play the entire 90 minutes with a full compliment of players.
The Gunners were matching Bayern in the opening 35 minutes of the first leg of the last-16 tie at Emirates Stadium two weeks ago, before a red card for Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny changed the balance of the tie.
That decision gave Bayern a chance to secure a first leg advantage, yet Wenger was keen to talk up his side’s hopes of a revival in his pre-match news conference in Munich.
“We have played a few times with 10 men in Europe and always under very special circumstances,” reflected Wenger, as he returned to the venue where his side recorded a 2-0 victory against Bayern at the same stage of last season’s Champions League [losing 3-3 on aggregate because of the away goals rule].
“In the Champions League final [against Barcelona in 2006], now against Bayern. When we played at Barcelona when we were in a position to qualify, it was a second yellow card and the only time I have seen that since I [have] watched European football, when [Robin] van Persie was sent off [for kicking the ball away], so I hope tomorrow we get a fair chance to play with 11 against 11 until the end.
“What we want is a good referee and the closer they are to the tough leagues, the more chances they have to detect the tricks that can decide the game, but that is the same for Bayern, because I talk about my players and the Bayern players.
“Honestly, I never look at the referee before the game. I never have any preconceived ideas. Sometimes when referees have big experience it helps them get out of tricky situations.
“I think you do not want players to stay on the pitch who deserve to be sent off, but as well you do not want games to be killed, or the interest of the game to be killed, for reasons that are tricky.”
Wenger believes the memories of his side’s win against Bayern at the Allianz Arena last season is the ideal confidence booster to his players as they seek to repeat that score-line a year on, with the Arsenal boss suggesting the self belief of his players was boosted by that display.
“The game last year was vital, but it helped to convince us that we are a good side,” he added. “It’s important to have the moment behind you that strengthens belief. The same result will get us to extra time [on Tuesday]. We have to try and surprise them at the start.
“On our side, we go there with nothing to lose and with a huge desire to do well. Let’s exploit our desire and the strength in our huge combative side to put them in trouble.
“We have had a few good nights in Europe, but [if Arsenal win on Tuesday] it would be absolutely great. When you come to this stadium, you don’t need anything else. Your motivation levels are already very high.
“The statistics are against us, but we have won everywhere in Europe, we won 5-1 at Inter Milan [in 2003] so it is a possible task, that is the most important thing. My team has quality and ambition. We know that we have to attack, but we also know we have to defend. We must find the right balance.”
The suspended Szczesny will miss the game in Munich, while Jack Wilshere, Yaya Sanogo, Kieran Gibbs and Aaron Ramsey are all unavailable due to injury. There is a possibility that the latter two of the trio could be fit to return for the North London derby against Tottenham next Sunday.
Wenger also hinted that central defender Thomas Vermaelen could be deployed in a left-back role against Bayern [with Nacho Monreal also out], while Laurent Koscielny returns after missing the FA Cup tie against Everton on Saturday.