Arsenal are preparing for a potentially season-defining Champions League clash against Bayern Munich on Wednesday as familiar doubts simmer over whether they can handle the pressure after their damaging Premier league defeat by Aston Villa.

Sunday’s 2-0 loss brought back uncomfortable memories for Mikel Arteta’s side, who led the way for most of last season before buckling in the home straight, allowing Manchester City to overtake them.

Long-suffering fans fear the worst again, with City now top of the pile once more and favourites to seal an unprecedented fourth straight top-flight title.

Defeat at the Emirates — Arsenal’s first league loss of 2024 — felt all the more galling after Liverpool’s shock defeat by Crystal Palace earlier in the day put a huge dent in the Anfield club’s title hopes.

Until Sunday’s reverse, the Gunners had convinced many that they were the real deal, adding grit to style as they went on a rampaging run of 10 wins in 11 Premier League matches.

The only blip in that sequence was a hard-fought draw at City’s Etihad Stadium, which in itself was seen as a sign of progress.

Now Arsenal, who have never won the Champions League, travel to the home of Bayern with little time to lick their wounds, targeting their first semi-final in the competition since 2009.

Last week’s first leg at the Emirates ended 2-2.

Normally, Arteta’s team would be clear underdogs against the six-time European champions but Bayern are in an unusual situation — coming to terms with the end of their 11-year stranglehold on the German top flight, dethroned by Bayer Leverkusen.