Monday 26 August 2019

Confident Wenger urges Gunners to rise to challenge of 'Groundhog Day'

Wenger: Looking to break bad habits. Photo: PA
Wenger: Looking to break bad habits. Photo: PA

John Percy

Arsene Wenger has told his Arsenal players to "make history" after hopes of a favourable Champions League draw were extinguished with a dreaded rematch against Bayern Munich.

Wenger's side must face the German heavyweights for the fourth time in five seasons as he attempts finally to reach the quarter-finals and end his frustration in Europe's elite competition.

Arsenal were confident of avoiding a superpower after winning Group A but they have suffered another nightmare draw, with the Bundesliga champions tweeting 'Hello again', with a clip from the film Groundhog Day.

Five days before the draw had even taken place, Bayern Munich's official Twitter account had suggested that a repeat fixture was inevitable and Arsenal's worst fears were confirmed at the draw in Nyon, Switzerland.

Arsenal will attempt to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in seven seasons after losing to teams including Barcelona, AC Milan and Bayern Munich (twice). But Wenger is in defiant mood and insists their misery at the round-of-16 stage has to end sooner or later.

"We are all here to change history and to make history, so we have to change what happened before and make it better," he said.

"In the last six years we have not come over the last 16 and they say that God made the world in seven days, so this is the seventh day for us. So we have to get our special day.

"This time the advantage we have is that we play first away from home. If we can keep our strength away from home that will help us to think, 'Let's have a good first game and then you can finish the job at home'.

"The best way to have momentum is when we go into the Champions League to be in a very strong position in the league, so that the belief is high. I am convinced that is absolutely vital because I have the experience of it."

Leicester's maiden European tour takes them to cup specialists Sevilla in what promises to be a significant test for the Claudio Ranieri fairytale.

Ranieri's men comfortably secured a place in the knockout stages and though Leicester avoided Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, Sevilla will be formidable opponents. The Spanish club have won the Europa League for three successive seasons and are only a point behind second-placed Barcelona in La Liga.

Ranieri said: "Whoever we played would have been a tough opponent, but I think all the teams who arrived second will have wanted to play against us and I know that we will be the underdogs once again. Always we are underdogs, every time.

"Sevilla have only lost three games and they are a big team. They are very technical and very good. They are fighting to win the title with Real Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, so that tells you how good they are."

Manchester City will face free-scoring Monaco - who beat Tottenham twice to clinch their place as Group E winners - in what could be another difficult test for Pep Guardiola's defence.

Guardiola has managed only five clean sheets in his 25 games in charge, while goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is under increasing scrutiny after conceding seven goals against Chelsea and Leicester - Monaco have scored 53 goals in the French Ligue 1.

Irish Independent

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