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Champions League | Quarter-Finals | 1st Leg
Apr 9, 2024 at 8pm UK
Emirates Stadium

2 - 2

Saka (12'), Trossard (76')
Partey (89')
FT(HT: 1-2)
Gnabry (18'), Kane (32' pen.)
Davies (9'), Kane (55')

Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich Combined XI - Declan Rice, Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka

:Headline: Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich Combined XI - Declan Rice, Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka:
Ahead of Arsenal's Champions League quarter-final first leg with Bayern Munich, Sports Mole picks a combined XI from both squads.
Sports Mole

Bidding to rectify the failures of Champions League seasons gone by, Arsenal welcome perennial Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich to their Emirates headquarters for the first leg of their tantalising quarter-final tie on Tuesday night.

The Gunners have already fallen to the Bavarians' superiority on four previous occasions in the Champions League knockout rounds, most recently suffering a mortifying 10-2 aggregate loss in the 2016-17 last 16 by virtue of a pair of 5-1 defeats.

However, Mikel Arteta's Premier League title chasers have now lifted the last-16 monkey off their back courtesy of a nail-biting penalty-shootout success over Porto, ending a run of seven straight exits at the first knockout hurdle.

Meanwhile, their German counterparts reversed a 1-0 first-leg deficit against Lazio to triumph 3-1 over two legs in the last 16, although they are on the brink of losing their hitherto obligatory Bundesliga crown to Bayer Leverkusen after Saturday's shock collapse at Heidenheim.

With world-class talent on display in all areas of the field and a couple of troops reuniting with old flames, Sports Mole picks a combined XI from both squads, using only players expected to be fit for the match.

While Arsenal's treatment room is virtually empty heading into the first leg, Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel could be facing a double-figure absentee list, and one of the German's 10 concerns is first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Neuer owing to a groin injury. The 38-year-old would have been a shoo-in if he were available, but his concern means that David Raya - saver of two Porto penalties and yet to concede a home goal in the Champions League - is our guardian.

The Brentford loanee continues to receive exceptional protection from the formidable pairing of William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes, who have made the first XI in all of Arsenal's European games so far this term and remain as steadfast in the Premier League, helping the Gunners become the stingiest defenders in the top flight. The latter's last-minute block on Brighton & Hove Albion's Joao Pedro was met with goal-worthy celebrations as Arsenal kept a fifth Premier League clean sheet in a row away from home - equalling a club record in the process - and the pair earn our votes over Bayern's Dayot Upamecano, Kim Min-jae and the out-of-favour Matthijs de Ligt.

Also crucial to Arsenal's astounding defensive work has been the ever-reliable Ben White, whose off-the-ball antics against former club Brighton at the weekend may have been unsavoury, but the 26-year-old's importance to Arteta's system cannot be overstated. Always cutting a calm figure on the field and winning 87.5% of his aerial duels in the Champions League this season - second only to Harry Maguire's 88.9% - White was an easy selection over Noussair Mazraoui, a slight doubt for the match due to illness either way.

The five-man rearguard is not completely clad in Arsenal red, though, as Alphonso Davies forces his way into the left-back position amid incessant speculation over his future at the Allianz Arena. Whether an anticipated switch to Real Madrid materialises this summer only time will tell, but the explosive Canadian has still proven an integral member of Tuchel's system with one goal and four assists this season. Takehiro Tomiyasu was unfortunate to miss out, as was Oleksandr Zinchenko, although the Ukrainian can still be found wanting defensively at times.

If reports are to be believed, Joshua Kimmich and Declan Rice could very well be lining up alongside one another in Arsenal colours next term, as is the case in our double pivot. Bayern stalwart Kimmich - who has eight assists to show from 31 matches in 2023-24 - has reverted to his former right-back role in recent weeks but slots into our midfield to accommodate White's selection, and the Germany international has already made 59 passes into the final third during the current UCL campaign, the fifth most in the tournament. Onto the man whom Bayern apparently considered as Kimmich's possible successor, Rice has taken the Arsenal midfield by storm since his £105m summer transfer with six goals of his own and seven assists - thriving in a more attack-minded midfield role - and he comfortably beats Leon Goretzka, Jorginho and Thomas Partey to an engine room slot.

Thomas Muller - now on an incredible 700 appearances for Tuesday's visitors - may be the top scorer in this fixture with five goals against Arsenal, but the ageing German's powers are waning, whereas Martin Odegaard's are only increasing. The Norwegian has already tallied 17 direct contributions this season - 10 of his own and seven assists - including an exquisite eye-of-the-needle pass to set up Leandro Trossard's pivotal last-16 second-leg strike versus Porto, and Bayern must simply find a way to quell Arsenal's captain if they are to cut off the supply line to their clinical forwards.

Speaking of attackers, both Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman are touch-and-go for the first leg due to injuries, but there are no doubts about the fitness of Jamal Musiala, returning to English shores following stints with Chelsea and Southampton as one of Europe's most feared prospects. Often unstoppable while surging forward on one of his mazy dribbles, the 21-year-old has conjured up 12 goals and seven assists in all tournaments this term and takes up our left-wing spot over Gabriel Martinelli and Trossard. However, even if Coman and Sane were guaranteed to be available, neither man would force their way in over Bukayo Saka, whose penalty against Brighton at the weekend was his 30th direct involvement of the season - 17 of his own and 13 assists - while he has seven contributions to show from seven UCL contests, setting up a joint-high four during Arsenal's run to the quarters.

Saka's fellow Gooner Gabriel Jesus has blossomed in European action with four strikes to his name so far, while Kai Havertz has now overcome early ridicule to become Arteta's next shining light. However, both men's statistics are dwarfed by Harry Kane, still smashing records for fun in Germany with an astonishing 38 goals and 12 assists from just 37 games this term, including six efforts in the Champions League. Tottenham Hotspur's former golden boy now returns to the English capital bidding to build on an equally sensational record of 14 goals in 19 contests with Arsenal in the past - failure to do so could spell the end of his trophy dreams for another year.

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