BERLIN: Evergreen Arjen Robben says Bayern Munich must raise their game for Wednesday’s key Champions League clash against Arsenal with time running out for him to again lift the European trophy.
The 33-year-old scored Bayern’s winning goal in the 2013 final at Wembley to seal the 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund.
He has a Bayern contract until June 2018, but time is running out for the injury-prone Dutch winger to get his hands on the Champions League trophy again.
“I am happy to play Bayern one more year,” he said in January after signing a one-year extension.
“The team is one of the best in the world.”
After winning the English and Spanish league titles at Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively, Robben has been with Bayern since 2009, lifting the Bundesliga trophy on five occasions and the German Cup four times.
His best season with Bayern was the golden 2012/13 campaign.
He was a key figure with 13 goals in 31 games when Bayern became the first German club to win the treble of European, domestic club and league titles and won the Bundesliga with a 19-point margin.
Robben scored in both the 4-0 home semi-final rout of Barcelona and the 3-0 away victory at the Camp Nou on golden nights for the Bavarians.
Since then, Robben and Bayern have endured semi-final exits in Europe by Barcelona, Real Madrid and then Atletico Madrid in each of the last three seasons under Pep Guardiola.
This season, under the Catalan’s successor Carlo Ancelotti, Bayern are currently seven points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.
But Robben is concerned by lacklustre recent performances in 2-1 league wins at both Freiburg and Werder Bremen, then a 1-1 home draw with Schalke before needing two late goals to see off struggling Ingolstadt.
He netted 60 seconds after Arturo Vidal’s 90th-minute goal to get Bayern out of jail with a 2-0 win last Saturday at relegation-threatened Ingolstadt.
– ‘week of truth’ –
“If we want to win something this season, we will have to play differently,” he said at Ingolstadt.
“If we don’t play better against Arsenal, it will be very difficult.”
Robben told German magazine Kicker that this is the ‘week of truth’ for Bayern’s European ambitions in 2016/17 as they look to maintain their record 15-match winning streak at home in the Champions League.
Not since 2011, when they bowed out to Inter Milan after losing 3-2 at home in the second leg, has Bayern exited at the last 16 stage of the Champions League.
“Normally, we are always present at this stage of the competition, we have enough experience to know what we have to do,” said Robben.
After three consecutive semi-final exits, the Bavarian giants are desperate to make this year’s final, in Cardiff on June 3, at the fourth attempt.
The Gunners and Bayern know each well, with the Germans having won five of their 10 meetings in Europe.
Arsenal has lost in the last 16 in each of the last six seasons with Bayern responsible for their 2013 and 2014 exits.
Robben scored the last time the team’s met when Bayern routed the Gunners 5-1 in Munich in November 2015 during the group stages after Arsenal had won 2-0 in London.
“Normally, we are always where we need to be for games like that, but it is a completely different match,” said Robben.
“It’ll be a step up. It’s Champions League and the opponents are always better.”
Defeat to Arsenal would be a black mark against Ancelotti, but chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is backing Bayern.
“There is no need to be pessimistic. We have seen the team can step it up at the right moment,” said Rummenigge.
“We have to win, ideally keep them to zero, so that we have a bit of a cushion for the second game in London. That would be nice,” he added, with the return leg at the Emirates Stadium on March 7.