'Bayern Munich are favourites to win… it's the toughest draw for Arsenal,' offered decorated former Liverpool and Bayern midfielder Dietmar Hamann on the even of the highly-anticipated Champions League knockout contest between the Premier League title challengers and the Bundesliga veterans.
An accomplished professional at the greatest echelons of European football, Hamann was a two-time league winner with Bayern in Germany and a UEFA Cup winner in 1996, before transfering to Liverpool and claiming a multitude of domestic honours as well as a second UEFA Cup and a Champions League title.
Now 40, Hamann claimed that his former side have improved since their all-conquering Treble-winning season last year, while criticising Arsenal for taking the group stage lightly. He told Sky Sports: 'If anything, [Bayern have] improved since last year when they won everything. Arsenal missed a trick by not winning their group and they should have made more effort to win effort.'
The first leg, competed at the Emirates Stadium this evening, Wednesday, prior to the Allianz Arena examination on March 11, is a repeat two-legged fixture from last year, where Bayern ran out away goals victors in a closely-run 3-3 tie.
'They took them close last year,' noted Hamann, before adding that: 'Arsenal were overawed. You've got to believe you can get a result and it could then be a different story, but they miss two key players [currently] in [Aaron] Ramsey and [Theo] Walcott.'
One player who may be a difference-maker in both legs is in-form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who, since returning from a long-term knee injury, has played a part in all five of Arsenal's most recent goals, scoring three and setting up two.
Over the course of the season, inclusive of both Premier League and FA Cup competition, Oxlade-Chamberlain returns a goal every 69 minutes he is on the field, on average.
'The big plus for them is Oxlade-Chamberlain,' noted Hamann, embellishing: 'You need these players, with pace, to stretch teams. [Mesut] Ozil didn't play the best because players like Oxlade weren't available.'
Offering his verdict on the outcome of the marquee match-up, he concluded: 'Over two legs I don't think they've got enough. If they take a lead to Munich and play on the counter attack then they have a chance. If you ask for a Bayern weakness I probably couldn't give you one - every area of the pitch is outstanding. I will go for a draw at Emirates with Bayern to finish it off in Munich.'
image: © wonker