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Bayern Munich restart their pursuit of Champions League glory

The one trophy Bayern Munich are judged by every season is the one that Pep Guardiola never managed to bring to Munich. It's time to find out whether Carlo Ancelotti's first attempt will be more successful.

As Bayern Munich came together on a sunny but cold winter's morning on Tuesday, the walls were up around the training ground. On Wednesday, in the Champions League, they face Arsenal - a favourite foe given they have won five of their last 10 against the North London side.

Arjen Robben has spoken of this being a"week of truth" and the Dutchman's choice of words perfectly reflect the situation. Most of Bayern's life, particularly since they won the treble in 2012-13, has been geared towards winning the Champions League. "Curtains closed in the Bundesliga" read a headline in the Munich-based national newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung" after their latest victory in the league.

From mid-February onwards, Bayern have a tendency to pull away in the league so that they can redirect their attention towards the two cup competitions. That pattern has repeated itself once again this season, albeit in a far less convincing manner. Bayern's play has been lethargic and uninspiring and they failed to top their Champions League group this year. Yet, the wins still keep coming and when Arsenal arrive on Wednesday, they'll face a Bayern team on a record 15-match winning streak at home in the Champions League.

After three straight semifinal exits in the competition, Bayern turned to Carlo Ancelotti in the hope of better fortune. The Italian has won the Champions League three times with two different teams. Clearly, he knows how it works, but the question on everyone's lips is: Can he win it with a team his predecessor could not?

He'll have to do it without Jerome Boateng and Franck Ribery, who are still working their way back to full fitness. But there was more positive news about Xabi Alonso, who returned for the final training session after hobbling off the day before. With one of the smallest (23) and oldest (the average age is 27.6) squad's in the competition, Bayern have the experience but need to show the kind of quality only really seen on opening day and against RB Leipzig.

Of the current squad, only 10 haven't won club football's greatest title. Mats Hummels joined Bayern to win trophies - and the closest he came to winning this one was losing to his current team in the 2013 final in London. Arturo Vidal lost in Berlin with Juventus, while Joshua Kimmich, Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman want to match their talent with trophies. Robert Lewandowski, who has 255 career goals (37 in the Champions League), is another Bayern star who has yet to get his hands on the coveted trophy.

Defeat to Arsenal would be Bayern's first last-16 exit since 2011. Ancelotti's team have been in second gear for months, gradually building towards the business-end of the season. Now, it's time to find out whether it was worth the wait.

jh/pfd (AFP)

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