ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger believes a miraculous comeback win against Bayern Munich tonight will transform the Gunners’ season.
Bayern hold a 3-1 advantage going into the Champions League last 16 tie at the Allianz Arena and only five teams in the history of the competition have blown a first leg advantage of that magnitude, in any round, and been eliminated.
Arsenal’s task looks to have been made all the more difficult with forward Lukas Podolski and midfielder Jack Wilshere both ruled out with ankle injuries, while goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny will be rested.
But Wenger feels a surprise result will give his team immeasurable belief for the remainder of the campaign as they bid to win a first trophy since 2005 and secure a top four finish in the Premier League.
“I am convinced that if this team can find a big game, with a big win, you will see a completely different animal,” he said.
“This season we have fought to find that in the big games and we have another opportunity and I hope the team takes this chance.
“I have a great respect for this team and its attitude and they have not been rewarded yet.
“It is important for the end to our season that we do it.”
Arsenal left-back Nacho Monreal is unavailable, having already played in this season’s Champions League for Spanish side Malaga.
However, Kieran Gibbs, who has missed the Gunners last six matches, is in line to replace Monreal after overcoming a thigh injury.
Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, midfielder Abou Diaby and forward Andrey Arshavin have also been included in the 18-man squad and captain Thomas Vermaelen has promised his team-mates will fight for an improbable place in the quarter-finals until the final whistle.
“In football anything can happen,” he said. “Of course it will be difficult, but we believe in it.
“Football is a strange sport, so we will go for it.”
MIRACLES DO HAPPEN
■ Barcelona lost 3-1 to Chelsea in the 2000 quarter-finals, but won the second leg 5-1 after extra time
■ In 2004, Deportivo La Coruna saw off AC Milan 4-0 in the last eight, after losing 4-1 at the San Siro in the first leg and progressed to the semi-finals
■ Monaco lost 4-2 to Real Madrid in the same round, but won 3-1 in the second leg and advanced on away goals
■ Last year, Chelsea lost 3-1 to Napoli in the last 16, but won the second leg 4-1 after extra time
■ Last night, Barcelona overturned a 2-0 last 16, first leg deficit and beat AC Milan 4-0 in the Nou Camp