Nine months after firing FC Bayern München to UEFA Champions League glory at Wembley, Arjen Robben is thrilled to be back in London but will not take Arsenal FC lightly.
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A modern footballer's life involves much travel and sitting around strange hotels, but FC Bayern München need no introduction to the palatial surrounds of the Landmark London.
It was here that Bayern stayed before last May's UEFA Champions League final triumph down the road at Wembley and Arjen Robben, scorer of the showpiece winner against Borussia Dortmund, is glad to be back. "Of course it is a special feeling to be back here and back in this hotel and this city – very special," said the Dutch international. "Last time we were here it was a highlight for all of us. But we are realistic enough to know this is a new season and a new competition and we have to start back from zero now."
Not quite zero. Bayern made almost seamless progress to the round of 16, winning their first five Group D fixtures; a 3-2 matchday six defeat by Manchester City being rendered academic. Still, as they prepare to face Arsenal FC, Robben cautions against the sort of complacency that could almost be forgiven of a side whose last 18 months have been spent rewriting the record books. "We have to keep our feet on the ground," said the ex-PSV Eindhoven, Chelsea FC and Real Madrid CF winger.
"We are not even in the quarter-final but the round before – and we have two very tough games, two finals, against Arsenal. It will be a very big game and we will be up for it. We realise that Arsenal have got better since last season so it will be a very nice match for the neutral. It's two top-quality teams on the pitch, and football these days can be determined by very small details so we have to be prepared."
Bayern prevailed 3-1 at Arsenal when they met at the same stage last term, "a great result" that meant they could afford a 2-0 second-leg reverse. Robben is sure the reunion will be different, however, both for Arsenal's improvement and Bayern's evolution under Josep Guardiola, who replaced Jupp Heynckes at the helm last summer. "I don't know if we are better compared to last season, but we've continued winning matches," said the 30-year-old.
"After last season when we won everything – we won the triple – I think it has been good that a new fresh wind came in and, as players, we had to be focused from the first day and go with the new coach, with a new plan. There hasn't been a team that has won the Champions League two times in a row – so it's a very good target for us to aim for to reach the final."