Arsenal vs Barcelona. Two giants of the football universe. Two brotherly philosophies. Arsenal can be somewhat classed as ‘Little Barca’, due to their similarities on and off the pitch, with their possession keep based style of play and their youthful intakes.
But no team does it better than the Blaugrana themselves. Back on the 14th of December, 2015, in Nyon, it was established that Arsenal’s fate in the next round of the UEFA Champions League was to face up to the current champions of the competition, Barcelona. Out of the two sets of teams, I’m unsure which side would be least happy about the draw. Out of the two sets of support, I’m sure we all know which side feels better.
Although this does seem like Arsenal will be chewed up and spat out of the competition by the footballing gods, and most fans will agree, but even finishing the group on top wouldn’t of seen ourselves any more safer.
Group Winners face off to finalists Juventus, which may be a very interesting tie. It was in our destiny to leave the competition at the Last 16 stage, for the SIXTH year running. However, Arsenal have the ability to make something out of the first leg. Barca have in fact never won at the Emirates and Arsenal cannot afford to dismay even their slight chances of survival.
The last time Barcelona visited the Emirates, Arsenal came away with a slender lead in the tie, one that was later overturned, but goals from Robin Van Persie and Andrey Arshavin won the game for Arsenal. The Barcelona front three consisted of Messi, Pedro and Villa, 2 of which are no longer at the club.
Now in their shoes is the prolific Luis Suarez, the entertaining Neymar and Lionel Messi. No superlatives needed. This trio alone has found the back of the net 30 times more than the entire Arsenal side, in the same period of time. Oh, and Barcelona are also unbeaten in 32 competitive games, surpassing their last winning record of 26.
“It is harder to prepare for Hull, than it is for Barcelona” said Arsene Wenger, which couldn’t be more true. One of the most desirable factors of the current Los Cules team is despite how utterly predictable the lineup and style of play is, they will still outclass you.
If Arsenal are to win this game they need the whole to team to perform like they never have before. Arsenal will need to utilise their two attacking starlets, Mesut Özil and ex barca-man Alexis Sanchez. Everyone knows that these two has the goods to overcome the opposition, as both have proved in their times in Spain.
Although Alexis has not returned with a bang, I’m sure the occasion of facing his former side will motivate him. As with Mesut Özil, he’s played Barcelona plenty times. In fact, the German playmaker has proved he can untie the Blaugranas defence, as in his last 8 games against Los Cules, he has notched an impressive 6 assists and a goal to his name.
Luis Suarez is also stepping up against a side that was so very close to signing him back in his Liverpool days, with Arsene Wenger bidding £50 million and a penny for the Uruguayan. Although he was certainly nothing less than prolific in the English Premier League, the striker never really stood out against the Gunners, scoring just twice in his 7 games he faced them. Lionel Messi likes facing Arsenal, as he proved on that night in April 2010 at the Nou Camp, sticking 4 goals past Manuel Almunia. Let’s hope the moon turns blue tonight, or more fitting, red.
Arsene Wenger will be unlikely to throw any surprise packages into the starting 11, with the only position really up for grabs being the right of the attacking three. Large debate whether it will be Campbell, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Welbeck or Walcott, but for me it will be the Ox.
Barcelona have their strongest 11 at their disposal, and it will likely be the Barcelona side that’s congregated together most of this season, with Arda Turan finding himself on the bench.
“Recently we made it always difficult for ourselves by conceding goals at home and basically the rules of the modern European Cup encourage you to defend at home and attack away because of the importance of the away goal.”
“Many times I said that should be suppressed because if you concede a goal at home in the Champions League, it’s a knife in your heart every time. Against big, big teams it becomes very difficult.”
“I cannot go into a game and think I will just play a zero-zero. I believe you cannot say you are a big club and you just want to defend. On the other hand, Barcelona is a very offensive team.”
“So to give you no chance at all to score against them is guilty as well. You have to try to score against them because if they have a vulnerability like we have it is defensively like with any offensive team.”
Arsenal and Barcelona’s seven previous encounters has amassed 27 goals in total, just under averaging 4 per game.
Arsenal have lost their last 3 Last 16 ties by a two goal margin.
Barcelona have won 15 of their last 19 Champions League games. They’ve also never failed to score in those 19 games.
Neymar has scored seven in his last 5 Champions League knockout games, but Messi has never scored at the Emirates.