London: Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker believes Bayern Munich are "untouchable" but is still hoping the Gunners can spring an upset when they meet in the Champions League tonight.
The European champions have suffered just two competitive defeats since losing 0-2 in the Last 16 against Arsene Wenger's men last March, with Borussia Dortmund overcoming them in the German Supercup and Manchester City beating them at home in the group stages of this season's competition.
Arsenal's 2-0 victory in Munich came after a 1-3 first-leg defeat at the Emirates, and Germany international Mertesacker reckons the current Bayern are a better team than the one that triumphed last year in London.
"Bayern are untouchable at the moment, both in the Bundesliga and in Europe," he told Germany's Sport1.de. "The only thing that makes me positive is that we beat them in Munich last year.
Arsenal players warm up during a training session at London Colney yesterday. Pic/AFP
"That allows us to go into the game with a certain degree of faith. We're going to give it our best." Keeping things tight in the first leg will be Arsenal's key to progressing this time around, although that is easier said than done.
Bayern have scored 57 goals in their 21 Bundesliga matches this season and conceded only nine, to open up a 16-point cushion over Bayer Leverkusen at the top of the table. "They're a little bit better in every department under Pep Guardiola," Mertesacker said.
"They've set a new benchmark. We're going to have to get a different result this time because the 3-1 defeat practically decided the tie last year. That was the decisive game."
> Bayern: The reigning European champions are fancied by many to become the first club to successfully defend the trophy in the Champions League era. Pep Guardiola's team have won 18 of 19 games since early October, the exception being an ultimately inconsequential 2-3 home defeat to Man City in the group stage.
> Arsenal: The EPL giants, meanwhile, have seen their Premier League title challenge falter with just one win in their last four outings and have not progressed beyond the Last 16 in any of the last three seasons, losing to Bayern at this stage 12 months ago.
Domestic league performance:
> Bayern: Top of the Bundesliga, unbeaten and 16 points clear of Bayer Leverkusen
> Arsenal: Second in Premier League, one point behind leaders Chelsea
Group stage performances:
> Bayern: Winners of Group D ahead of Man City
> Arsenal: Second in Group F behind Borussia Dortmund
European Cup/Champions League best performances:
> Bayern: Winners 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001, 2013
> Arsenal: Runners-up 2005/06
Bayern won on away goals after the sides drew 3-3 on aggregate at the same stage last season. The Germans also won 3-2 on aggregate in the 2004/05 Last 16 and won 1-0 at home, and drew 2-2 in London, in the second group stage in 2000/01.
Top scorers (all tourneys):
> Bayern: Mario Mandzukic, Thomas Mueller (17 goals)
> Arsenal: Olivier Giroud (14 goals)