Football: Arsenal’s hopes of staying in the Champions League grew even fainter today with the news that influential midfielder Jack Wilshere would be sidelined for three weeks.
The Englishman picked up an ankle injury in his side’s defeat to Tottenham 10 days ago and will now miss tomorrow’s trip to Germany for the last-16 second leg clash against Bayern Munich, as well as England’s World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro.
The Gunners had already needed a miracle in Munich after they lost the first leg 3-1.
But now their chances of progressing to the quarter-finals of the competition appear even bleaker, despite their hosts being without the injured Franck Ribery, as well as midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and defender Jerome Boateng, who are both suspended.
Arsene Wenger’s men, who will also be missing Lukas Podolski, must score at least three times to go through, though a solitary goal for the Bundesliga outfit would most likely render the tie a damp squib, from an English perspective at least.
Bayern are the highest scoring team in this season’s Champions League and, with the visitors expected to throw caution to the wind, holes are likely to open up in their defence. Arsenal, too, have one of the worst defensive records, having conceded 11 thus far.
In that light, the Londoners need a miracle, though Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes insisted that his players will take nothing for granted.
“Arsenal is not just any club,” Heynckes said. “I know that we need 100 per cent commitment in such a game.”
Bayern captain Philipp Lahm added that his team-mates should approach the game as if the result of the first leg was 0-0.
“But we know we are in a good form,” Lahm said. “It’s going to be tough for Arsenal, they have to defend well and still score three goals.”
If Arsenal bow out, England won’t have a team in the last eight for the first time since the 1995-96 season in what will be a fresh sign that European football’s power balance has shifted not just to Spain but also to Germany, who could have as many as three representatives in the last eight of the competition.
Schalke host Galatasaray tonight, with the tie finely poised at 1-1, while Borussia Dortmund have already progressed to the quarter-final stages after they defeated Shakhtar Donetsk 5-2 on aggregate.