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5 Key Clashes – UCL Quarterfinal First Leg

The UCL Champions League quarter-finals are set to kick-off this week. Only eight teams remain in the competition and the first fixture will see Arsenal take on Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal and Bayern Munich have met on several occasions in the same competitions over the years, facing each other 12 times since the 2000/2001 season. However, the German side has had the upper hand against the Gunners, winning 7 out of 12 games, while Arsenal has only managed to emerge victorious in 3 games. In addition, Arsenal has lost the last three meetings with a scoreline of 5-1, making it an aggregate of 15-3 in favor of Bayern Munich.

Also read: Arsenal’s Rising Star Shines Bright: Emile Smith Rowe Steals The Show In 2-0 Victory Over Luton, Arteta’s Praise Rings Loud

Mikel Arteta faces a huge task ahead of him on Tuesday night. Bayern, by their standards, are having a poor season and are set to go trophyless for the first time since 2012, unless they can get their hands on the big-eared trophy. They are just one step away from relinquishing their league title for the first time since 2013, having won a whopping 11 titles in a row. With Bayer Leverkusen only needing one win to clinch the title, the Bavarians could be dethroned between the first leg and second leg against Arsenal. However, despite all their setbacks this season, Bayern are still a force to be reckoned with and house a host of big-name, talented players who can string together results in a knockout competition.

Arsenal scraped past Porto in the round of 16, needing a penalty shootout to dispatch the Portuguese club, but have been buoyed by their recent successes in the league and their position in the table. The Gunners are locked in a tight battle against Liverpool and Manchester City for the title, and Arteta will hope his team can stay focused on two fronts and make home advantage count against a disturbed Bayern Munich to take a strong lead into the second leg.

Here we take a look at some of the key clashes to keep an eye out for in Arsenal vs Bayern Munich game on Tuesday night.

William Saliba vs Harry Kane

Saliba and Kane have both been ever-present for their sides and have been reliable for their sides. The French center-back has been a rock for Arsenal at the back this season, playing every minute of every league game for the Gunners this season. Such is his impact on the side that,  when he suffered an injury in the final leg of the last season, Arsenal managed to win only five of eleven league games and keep only two clean sheets. Their title challenge last season faltered with the departure of Saliba, but the 23-year-old has come back brilliantly this season and has helped his side to the top spot with only a handful of games left to play, keeping a league-high 12 clean sheets so far.

Harry Kane, like Saliba, is having an astonishingly brilliant season and has topped all scoring charts for clubs and leagues. He has played in every Bundesliga game so far this season, scoring 32 goals and providing nine assists. German defenses have not been able to cope with the sheer goalscoring prowess of the Englishman, and it will pain Arsenal fans to remember that he has an outstanding record against them. Kane will hope to haunt the Red Side of North London yet again, as he so regularly did while playing in Tottenham colors, scoring 14 goals in 19 games against the Gunners.

It will be a clash of an immovable object against an unstoppable force as Saliba and Kane come up against each other. While Kane has scored the most goals out of any striker in Europe, Saliba has conceded some of the fewest goals in the top five leagues. Both are in top form, and it will be a delight to watch them go against each other.

Declan Rice vs Jamal Musiala

In a Hollywood-esque story, two childhood friends will face each other on one of the biggest stages in club football. Rice and Musiala played together when the latter was 11-years-old in the streets and parks before Musiala moved away to Germany for greener pastures. Now representing Arsenal and Bayern Munich, respectively, the two are having stellar seasons for their clubs. Rice has established himself as one of the best midfielders in the league and the world, whereas Musiala has been earning praise and acclaim as a promising youngster.

Also read: Liverpool And Manchester City Are The Favourites To Win The Premier League Title, According To Danny Murphy

Musiala is enjoying a decent season with Bayern Munich, scoring 10 goals and assisting six, primarily playing as a number 10. Rice, on the other hand, has played as an 8 or a lone 6 at times and is expected to face Musiala in a tight midfield battle. The two are excellent technically and are not often caught making mistakes on the ball, which will be crucial for both teams come Tuesday night.  A true representation of the England vs. Germany battle, it could be a taster for what is to come in the Euros.

Bukayo Saka vs Alphonso Davies

It will be a battle of two young guns on the right flank, as Alphonso Davies will have a massive task on his hands to contain the in-form and dangerous Bukayo Saka. Saka has been the leading light for Arsenal’s attack and is their top goal scorer with 17 goals and top assist provider with 13 in all competitions. The 22-year-old is fast building a reputation as one of the best in the business and is on course to enjoy his best season ever.

Alphonso Davies, on the other hand, is somewhat lost in form and has endured a tough time in recent weeks. His off-field issues have not made it easier for the player, as his agent has come out and effectively severed ties with the club, stating that Bayern had given the Canadian an ultimatum. The relationship between the club and player may be deteriorating, and he could be on his way out in the summer, but he will have to focus on getting the better of Saka, who has come up trumps against the best fullbacks this season.

Oleksandr Zinchenko vs Leroy Sane

Another battle on the flanks, this time between former teammates Oleksandr Zinchenko and Leroy Sane. The two were teammates at Manchester City, winning two Premier League titles together. However, they now face the prospect of coming up against each other – if Leroy Sane is declared fit enough to start. Zinchenko has found himself in and out of the starting 11 this season, and has competed with Kiwior and  Tomiyasu for a starting spot, but is in contention to start on a big night for the Gunners. His prior experience in high-profile games as well as against European pedigree will be massive for Arsenal who are playing in the Champions League for the first time since 2016-17 season. They have a young squad and Zinchenko’s experience will come in handy, especially against a wily attacker like Leroy Sane.

The German is brilliant in one-on-one situations and his trickery and fast feet can fool the best of defenders. Sane has a good eye for pass and will look to find Harry Kane in and around the box whenever he can. Zinchenko will need to be on alert at all times to overcome the threat of Leroy Sane on the left flank. Although a Kiwoir inclusion is highly likely considering the defensive vulnerability that the Ukrainian brings to the back line.

Kai Havertz vs Matthijs de Ligt

Arsenal certainly raised eyebrows when they brought in Kai Havertz from Chelsea in the summer in an already stacked midfield, and not many saw the trick that Mikel Arteta had up his sleeve. Instead of playing the German as a number 10 or an 8, he was deployed as a center-forward and was tasked with leading the line for the Gunners. Admittedly, it did not quite work out at the start, but Havertz has since adopted beautifully to the role and is the first name on the team sheet now. Havertz was at his best over the weekend as Arsenal beat Brighton 3-0, with the summer signing scoring one and assisting one, propelling his side back to the top of the table. He has brought fluidity to Arsenal’s attack and has eight goal involvements in the last eight games he has started.

Also read: Former Chelsea Defender William Gallas Has Taken Aim At Chelsea Manager Mauricio Pochettino

Matthijs de Ligt is expected to be back in the starting lineup following a calamitous defeat for Bayern against minnows Heidenheim over the weekend. The Dutchman could only watch from the bench as the German giants blew a two-goal lead to lose 3-2, a result that left the fans and players stunned. He will have a big job on his hands, keeping up with Kai Havertz, who will undoubtedly aim to rain chaos upon the troubled Bayern defense. The Dutch defender has not found consistent game time, having struggled with an injury and being kept out by the defensive pairing of Kim Min-Jae and Dayot Upemacano, but should be in line to start at the Emirates.

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