Pep Guardiola expecting stern test from Arsenal
Bayern Munich boss has never won away to Arsenal as a coach
Pep Guardiola: “It’s my third time as a trainer here to play against Arsenal. I’ve never won here.”
Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola is bidding to end an unwanted personal record at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night when the European champions tackle Arsenal.
A year to the day since a 3-1 win at the same last-16 stage helped secure victory on away goals against Arsenal — winners of the second leg 2-0 — Guardiola’s men return to the London aiming to take a significant step towards becoming the first side to retain the trophy in the Champions League era.
Former Barcelona boss Guardiola said: “It’s my third time as a trainer here to play against Arsenal. I’ve never won here.
“I learnt that you can’t dominate 90 minutes against Arsenal. It’s impossible.
“You can play good, you can dominate during half-time, 30 minutes, 75 minutes, but complete 90 minutes it’s impossible. Always you have a problem.
“We’ll try to make a good game, as best as possible; don’t think too much about the second game, concentrate on what we have to do tomorrow. And I hope it goes well.
“It’s a good test tomorrow to know what is our level in Europe this year.”
Bayern are in familiar surroundings in London, having won the 2013 European Cup at Wembley under Guardiola’s predecessor, Jupp Heynckes.
They are staying in the same hotel and the referee on Wednesday is also the same as the official who took charge of the all-German final against Borussia Dortmund, Italian Nicola Rizzoli.
After a treble-winning campaign, Guardiola knows expectations are high, but he is not yet considering Bayern becoming the first side since the great AC Milan side of 1990 to retain the trophy.
He added: “My target is play every week better than the week before.
“I know when we don’t win everything it will be a little bit disappointing, but I know how difficult it is to win.
“The title is so difficult. It’s not happened since the 90s. I’m not worried about that. I’m not concerned about that.
“We’re going to look forward to always getting better.”
It is ominous for Arsenal, with Guardiola himself possessing a formidable winning record.
As comparisons abound between the all-conquering Bayern and Barca, Guardiola was not prepared to enter the debate.
The favourites’ tag and expectation are familiar for Guardiola.
“I can’t compare with my past, my Barcelona,” he added. “I have to handle, to accept we are favourites to win.”
Guardiola was full or respect for Arsenal, despite their barren eight-year run without a trophy.
The Spaniard added: “Arsenal compete with huge, huge teams and, for me, remain a good team, a good club.
“We’re going to fight tomorrow against one of the best teams in Europe.”
Arsenal stated their intent this season with the signing of Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid last August.
Guardiola is familiar with the threat posed by the Germany playmaker and hopes Bayern can starve Ozil of possession.
“He’s a big talent,” Guardiola said.
“We have to control him. The best way to control him is when Bayern have the ball. That’s what we’re going to try to do tomorrow.”
Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is from the same city, attended the same school and has played in the same teams as Gelsenkirchen native Ozil.
He has not spoken to Ozil or the other Germans in Arsenal’s team since January, but recognises Arsenal are a stronger opposition than 12 months ago, when Bayern scored twice in the opening 21 minutes.
The goalkeeper said: “It would be great if we could have such a start as last year to repeat what we did then.
“(But) we know it will be quite difficult. They’ve improved since then.”
Bayern’s former Chelsea winger Arjen Robben also expects a tough test against a Gunners on course to end their search for silverware.
He said: “They haven’t won a title in a few years. For me they’re still a very good team.
“They’re up there in the Premier League, they’re in the Champions League. I think they have a good chance this year of winning something.”