Carlo Ancelotti has warned Bayern Munich to guard against an Arsenal backlash as the Italian coach looks to avoid another stunning Champions League meltdown.
Ancelotti’s side will arrive at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday with one foot firmly planted in the quarter-finals after thrashing Arsenal 5-1 in the last 16 first leg.
But the Bayern boss knows all to well that sizeable leads can quickly disappear in the crucible of a high-stakes European showdown.
Ancelotti was in charge of the AC Milan team that famously squandered a three-goal half-time lead before losing on penalties against Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League final.
That epic collapse in Istanbul came just a year after Ancelotti had watched Milan throw away a 4-1 first leg lead in the Champions League quarter-finals as Deportivo La Coruna came back to win 5-4 on aggregate.
With Arsenal in turmoil after Saturday’s Premier League defeat against Liverpool sparked rumours of a rift between boss Arsene Wenger and star striker Alexis Sanchez, it seems unlikely the Gunners will add another painful chapter to Ancelotti’s European history.
But the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss has no intention of taking Arsenal for granted and he has already underlined the potential danger posed by the wounded hosts.
“I try to forget but I’m not allowed to forget,” Ancelotti said of his past defeats.
“This is the beauty of football. You never know what will happen.
“I think that experience was good for me to avoid this type of problem. Tomorrow could be a good moment to show we are focused from the beginning.
“I hope the players won’t switch off. I spoke with them and they are focused.
“They know the start of the game will be tough. We won’t take into consideration the advantage that we have.
“If you not playing well and you are going a little bit down, for a team that has problems maybe this kind of game is an opportunity for Arsenal to solve the problems.”
– Doubters –
Although many Arsenal fans calling for Wenger to quit at the end of what looks set to be another unfulfilling campaign, Ancelotti warned the doubters to be careful what they wish for.
Wenger has won three Premier League titles and six FA Cups with Arsenal and Ancelotti said: We have to live with critics in our job, but the most important thing is to consider the right critics.
“Wenger is a manager with a lot of experience. I’m sure he will be able to react and manage this situation.
“I sympathise with him as a manager, as a man I have a good relationship with him.
“I have a lot of respect for him. Not every manager will be able to do what he did in this club.”
Bayern winger Franck Ribery gave a less glowing appraisal of his fellow Frenchman’s current predicament, but he too won’t write off Wenger just yet.
“At the moment they have lots of problems at Arsenal,” he said.
“It’s a difficult situation for Arsene. It’s not easy for him. He has to continue and try everything with his team.
“But we shouldn’t forget what he has done for the club.
“He has worked here for so many years and all the titles he has won.”
Ancelotti expects goalkeeper Manuel Neuer to be fit to start on Tuesday after he missed training on Monday with a minor injury.
Bayern made the trip to London in confident mood after a lengthy winning run and German midfielder Thomas Muller expects the feelgood factor to shine through against Arsenal.
“We are in good shape at the moment. We want to have the same fun and enjoy ourselves like in the last few games,” he said.
“When you have the momentum you want to ride on that wave.
“Of course we know Arsenal will try everything, but we have prepared intensely.”