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Wenger expects Arsenal to deliver

Published: Wednesday 9 March 2005, 10.04CET
Arsène Wenger has insisted his Arsenal FC team should not be discounted as they bid to overturn a 3-1 deficit.

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Published: Wednesday 9 March 2005, 10.04CET

Wenger expects Arsenal to deliver

Arsène Wenger has insisted his Arsenal FC team should not be discounted as they bid to overturn a 3-1 deficit.

By Michael Harrold in London

Arsenal FC manager Arsène Wenger has warned that his side should not be discounted just yet as the English champions look to overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit in the first knockout round to knock FC Bayern München out of the UEFA Champions League.

'Big task'
"We have a big task in front of us, but we want to win and I believe we can win," he said. "All the rest is just down to the quality of performance that I think the players will produce tomorrow night. We allowed them to slow the game down [in Munich]. We want to dictate the pace of the game tomorrow."

Bergkamp return
Kolo Touré's late goal in Bavaria has kept the tie alive, and striker Thierry Henry believes the return of Dennis Bergkamp will provide the cutting edge at Highbury missing from Arsenal's play at the Olympiastadion. "Having Dennis tomorrow will change things," he said. "When Dennis plays, I play stronger. He is the best player I have ever played with as a partner."

Scientific brain
Wenger added: "Dennis has a scientific brain on the football pitch and we need him to find every inch of space. You expect Bayern to be cautious. They have no reason to go out there and play. It's down to us, but that's what we face against any team that comes to Highbury. We have to be patient because even if we score after 85 minutes, we still have a chance to qualify."

Edu doubt
As well Bergkamp, Robert Pires is back after an ankle injury, but Brazilian midfield player Edu limped out of training on Tuesday and faces a scan on a knee problem to determine whether he can play. With centre-backs Pascal Cygan and Sol Campbell both injured, a lot will rest on the young shoulders of Philippe Senderos, but Wenger is confident the 20-year-old is ready for the challenge. "I feel he grows from game to game," Wenger said. "We have experienced players in the squad and they will help him."

Defensive frailties
Wenger, conscious of Arsenal's defensive frailties in the absence of Campbell, draws confidence from clean sheets in his side's last two matches, but the Gunners have conceded in each of their past six Champions League games, and Bayern coach Felix Magath knows a single goal at Highbury will almost certainly seal a quarter-final place.

Ballack returns
Injury to the prolific Roy Makaay comes as a blow, but Bayern are compensated by the return to form of Michael Ballack, scorer of Bayern's winner against champions Werder Bremen on Saturday. Magath is expected to switch to 4-5-1, with the German international, who missed the first leg, given free rein in midfield with Claudio Pizarro alone up front.

Lizarazu fit
The recovery from injury of Bixente Lizarazu further bolsters Bayern's formidable back line which has, in contrast to Arsenal, shipped just one goal in five outings. The tight confines of the Highbury pitch will also play into Bayern's hands as they pack the midfield and look to frustrate the home team.

'Coming to win'
Bayern have not lost any of their last 21 Champions League matches by more than two goals, and comfortably contained Arsenal in the first leg. Touré's strike may have created an element of doubt, but Magath is ready to quash it. "We know that Arsenal are very strong in attack but have problems in defence," he said. "This is our chance. We would like to be the team that scores first. We're not coming to London just to play Arsenal, we're coming to win."

Last updated: 09/03/05 15.08CET