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Men’s Football Bayern Munich showdown is perfect game for Arsenal to hit back, says Rice

DECLAN RICE believes a Champions League quarter-final clash with Bayern Munich is the “perfect” game for Arsenal to overcome defeat to Aston Villa.

The Gunners were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Unai Emery’s men at the Ashburton Grove on Sunday afternoon as Leon Bailey and Ollie Watkins scored the goals to boost Villa’s top-four hopes.

Arsenal would have returned to the Premier League summit with a win but now sit second, two points behind reigning champions Manchester City.

There is no time for Mikel Arteta’s players to lick their wounds, however, as they travel to Germany for the second leg of their finely-poised Champions League quarter-final against Bayern.

A 2-2 draw in north London last week leaves the tie on a knife-edge and Rice feels such a big game is just what Arsenal need after a rare slip-up.

“It’s the perfect game for a reaction,” he said.

“We need a reaction on Wednesday night and it is a great chance to show our character and leadership. It’s time to go out there and hopefully get into the semi-finals of the Champions League.

“We have to park this to the side now. It’s gone, it’s a game of football. We’ve lost but we need to bounce back, that’s for sure.

“Going to the Allianz Arena, it’s going to be a special night. It’s time to pull our socks up and show everyone why we’re in this position.

“We’re gutted and disappointed we’ve lost a massive game but, it’s time for a reaction. We’ve been on such an amazing run since January, won so many football matches and got ourselves back into an unbelievable position after being written off at Christmas.”

This was former Arsenal boss Emery’s first trip back to Ashburton Grove as Villa manager and the Spaniard severely dented the title charge of his old club.

Villa had already hit the woodwork through both Watkins and Youri Tielemans before substitute Bailey tapped home to break the deadlock late on.

With the hosts pushing for an equaliser, Watkins raced from his own half to latch onto a long ball and double the lead with a deft finish.

The win means fourth-placed Villa opened up a three-point gap on Tottenham in the battle for what looks like being the final Champions League place.

Like Arsenal, they now turn their attention to Europe as they prepare for the second leg of their Europa Conference League quarter-final with Lille, having won the home leg 2-1.

“I definitely will take confidence from it and I think the team should take a lot of confidence from this game as well,” Bailey said of the victory at Arsenal.

“The way we played, coming to [Ashburton Grove] — I think the way we set out was so strong and I think the team really didn’t give up too much and we created opportunities at the same time.

“I think from this, we should really take this game into consideration and give ourselves a lot of confidence moving forward.”

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