Bayern Munich’s defender Mats Hummels looks on during the press conference at the stadium in Munich, southern Germany, on February 14, 2017, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League round of sixteen match between FC Bayern Munich and Arsenal London.
Christof STACHE / AFP
Bayern Munich’s Mats Hummels said keeping a clean sheet in Wednesday’s first leg would be the key to extending Arsenal’s last 16 Champions League misery.
Arsenal have lost in the last 16 in each of the last six seasons and exited at the hands of Bayern at this stage of the competition in 2005, 2013 and 2014.
Unlike the 2013 and 2014 defeats, this time around Arsenal have the advantage of playing the first leg away with the return at the Gunners’ Emirates Stadium on March 7.
Centre-back Hummels says Bayern’s priority is to make sure Arsenal do not leave Munich with a valuable away goal.
“It’s certainly an important factor to keep them to zero in a knock-out game. It’s our goal,” said Hummels.
The two clubs know each other well having already met 10 times in the Champions League, with Bayern winning five of the encounters to Arsenal’s three, with two draws.
In 2013, the Germans squeezed past the Gunners on away goals in the last 16 — 3-3 on aggregate — after Bayern’s 3-1 win in London was cancelled out by Arsenal’s 2-0 victory in Munich.
The Bavarians went on to win the title and become the first club to win the treble of Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup.
Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer dismissed the idea that meeting Arsenal again in the last 16 is a good omen for the 2017 title.
“That’s all speculation, but basically it is easier to play a team you already know,” said Neuer.
“Perhaps it’s a good omen, but I don’t believe in it.”
Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti says midfielder Xabi Alonso is fit and trained on Tuesday despite picking up a knock to his knee in Monday’s session.
The Italian denied Arsenal’s last 16 hoodoo would affect the Londoners in this tie.
“I don’t know why they have lost, it won’t be a psychological barrier, and besides, if there is one, they will want to move forward from it with this game,” said Ancelotti.
“We have to be able to make life uncomfortable for them on the pitch.”
Ancelotti won the Champions League in 2003 and 2007 with AC Milan, then repeated the feat in 2014 with Real Madrid.
Looking towards another potential final appearance in Cardiff on June 3 he identified “courage, personality, experience and luck” as the vital ingredients his team would need to show.
“Of all of these, courage is the most important — to play better than others in this competition,” he added.