Monreal: Bayern probably the favourites in group

Mark Holmes
Nacho Monreal: Acknowledges Arsenal are not favourites in Champions League group

Nacho Monreal has stressed the importance of Arsenal opening their Champions League campaign with a win in a group containing Bayern Munich.

Arsenal lost their opening game in the Champions League to Borussia Dortmund 12 months ago before suffering a last-16 exit at the hands of Monaco.

It is an experience Monreal and his team-mates have not forgotten about.

“The defeat to Monaco is a bad memory for us,” Monreal said.

“You have to try to take positives, and we look at the way we played in the win in the second leg. But it is really difficult when you are two goals down from the home match, and then playing away in the Champions League.

“If you lose 3-1 in the first game it is really difficult to get through to the next stage, so we need to learn about that and know that in football the difference isn’t big. That’s why our focus in on starting well in the group and getting three points on Wednesday.

“We want to pass through into the next stage, and we know that the favourite in our group is probably Bayern Munich, so we know we need to do well against Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos.

“Dinamo Zagreb are playing in the Champions League because they are a strong side and one of the top teams in Europe.

“It will be a big test for us, but we if we concentrate on our strengths we know we can perform well.

“It will be really positive for us to start with three points in Zagreb, as it will give us a good start and confidence for the rest of the group stage.”

Monreal’s comments were echoed by his manager, Arsene Wenger.

“We lost our first game last year in Dortmund and straight away it put us under pressure,” Wenger said. “After that we had our backs to the wall and had to really focus.

“So it is important that we go to Zagreb and realise what is at stake there.

“You have Olympiakos and Zagreb – first we have to finish above them.

“We know we have a battle first to qualify and afterwards against Bayern Munich. This result will count a lot.

“It is important to start well because the hunger of the team is shown well by how you do in every single competition.”

Arsenal are again set to be without Per Mertesacker in Zagreb but are hopeful of having the defender available again for Saturday’s trip to Chelsea in the Premier League.

“I believe by the end of the week he should be much better,” Wenger said.