By Mike Collett
FREE-SCORING strikers Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal and Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Munich will be looking to keep the goals flowing in their bid to help win their pivotal Champions League Group F match in north London on Tuesday (9.45pm).
After failing to score in his first eight matches of the season, Chilean Sanchez has netted 10 goals in his last six for club and country, while Lewandowski has scored 22 for club and country this season, including 15 in his last seven matches.
He failed to find the net in Bayern’s 1-0 win over Werder Bremen on Saturday but has not gone two matches without scoring all season.
Even if he does have an off-day, Arsenal will have Thomas Muller to worry about after his 15 goals so far this season.
The Bayern front men pose a big threat to an Arsenal defence that has performed reasonably well in the Premier League but badly in the Champions League. The side are bottom of Group F, having lost their opening two group matches for the first time.
Bayern top the group with six points. Olympiakos Piraeus, who won 3-2 at Arsenal three weeks ago, have three, as do Dinamo Zagreb, while Arsenal have none.
If Bayern win they are likely to seal their place in the last 16 with matches to spare. If Arsenal lose, it is difficult to see them qualifying and they cannot afford to drop any more points when Bayern visit for the third time in four seasons.
After losing to Olympiakos, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted his side face a huge fight to qualify.
“It is still possible of course to qualify but it is difficult to swallow losing a game like that and we have a big battle ahead of us,” he said.
Wenger faced a wave of criticism for resting first choice keeper Petr Cech for the match and playing his reserve David Ospina instead, and it would be a big surprise if Cech was left out again as he has played a big role in Arsenal’s two wins since then keeping two clean sheets.
Arsenal bounced back from that defeat with an emphatic 3-0 demolition of Manchester United five days later and they maintained their good domestic form with a 3-0 win at Watford on Saturday.
They will have to be at their best again against an in-form Bayern side that won 3-1 in London in Feb. 2013 and 2-0 there a year later.
In four Champions League visits since Dec. 2000 Bayern have lost only once, in March 2005, though they still won that round-of-16 tie 3-2 on aggregate.
They now come back in stellar form, having set a league record of nine successive wins from the start of the season when they beat Werder Bremen 1-0 on Saturday, their 12th successive win in all competitions.
Despite already having several injured players, including defenders Medhi Benatia and Holger Badstuber, as well as Franck Ribery and Mario Goetze, coach Pep Guardiola rested Douglas Costa and Javi Martinez ahead of the trip to London.
Winger Arjen Robben failed to recover from a groin injury in time to depart with the team on Sunday.
“It won’t be an easy task there but we are well prepared,” captain Philipp Lahm said of the match.
Guardiola will have Lewandowski in the squad despite the Poland forward suffering a knock on Saturday.
Lewandowski was hit by Werder keeper Felix Wiedwald, crashed to the ground and stayed there for a minute before playing on.
“It’s fine,” Lewandowski said, “Nothing has happened. But I hope our game improves because from tomorrow it’s all about the Champions League.”