Champions League draw

Wenger wary of improving Germans

December 20, 2012
By Kevin Palmer and Stephan Uersfeld

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger got his wish in Thursday's Champions League draw as his side were spared another showdown with Barcelona, yet he admitted the rise of German sides is ominous ahead of a last-16 tie with Bayern Munich.

Pressue is growing on Arsene Wenger as the Gunners struggle in the league
GettyImagesWenger: Ready for the run-in

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Fluent German speaker Wenger, who is reported to have rejected an approach to take over at Bayern back in 2009, held his weekly press conference before the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League, but he was full of praise for the rise of German teams.

He was also keen to highlight the consistency of his team, with their appearance in the last 16 of the Champions League for a 13th consecutive year a record he is right to feel proud of.

"The general secretary of UEFA confirmed that only five teams from the last 16 of a year ago are back again," stated Wenger. "There are 11 newcomers and it shows how quickly it changes. It also shows how difficult it is to be in there every season because the turnover is quick.

"The German clubs have made a big, big leap forward in recent years. The Spanish clubs are traditionally there and in England we have a little deficit because usually at that level we have four, but there are only two this season."

Wenger will be relieved to have side-stepped another meeting with Spanish league leaders Barcelona, as he will be hoping to save a reunion with Lionel Messi and company until a possible final at Wembley next May.

"I don't think anyone is happy to play Barcelona," added Wenger. "Even against Barcelona, I believe we would have a good chance, but I would rather avoid that."

Bayern Munich, meanwhile, are favourites in their Champions League clash against Arsenal, according to chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Arsenal and Bayern have met twice before in the Champions League. En route to winning the Champions League in 2001, Bayern drew 2-2 in London and won 1-0 at home, while in 2005 a 3-2 aggregate win saw Bayern qualify for the quarter-finals.

The runaway Bundesliga leaders were satisfied with the draw and looking forward to a reunion with Arsenal star Lukas Podolski, who played for Bayern from 2006 to 2009.

"We know Arsenal well. We can be satisfied with this draw," Rummenigge said. "It won't just take care of itself. It's important we go in search of a good result and score a goal there."

But Rummenigge was confident Bayern could secure their place in the quarter-finals. He said: "I think we enter this match as the slight favourites, but we can make the mistake of underestimating them.

"Arsenal have struggled at times in the league over the last few months. I wouldn't call this a lucky draw, but one that we can overcome. I look forward to seeing my old friend Arsene Wenger and I hope we can reach the next round."