Do Arsenal Have A Chance vs Barcelona?
After overcoming the odds to reach the second round in this season’s Champions League, Arsenal were handed the tournament’s favourites in February as Barcelona awaits Arsene Wenger’s side.
The Gunners beat Bayern Munich once in the group stage – their only points from the first four rounds of matches before winning their last two matches, including a 3-0 win at Olympiacos to book their place past the first group stage for the 16th consecutive season.
Barcelona were one of three Spanish La Liga sides that Wenger’s men could have drawn, whilst they would have been considered favourites if they had drawn either Zenit St. Petersburg or VfL Wolfsburg.
It is what it is and with many of the current injury list set to be back by February, perhaps Gunners’ fans will have some confidence in their side upstaging the defending holders.
Barcelona breezed through their group stage and looked set to do the same in La Liga following a 4-0 thumping of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in late November. However, Luis Enrique’s side have dropped four points in their last two matches by conceding late goals – first versus Valencia and then blowing a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at home to Deportivo last weekend.
These two sides do have some recent history in the Champions League. First there was the 2006 final in which Barcelona had to come from behind to win 2-1, despite Jens Lehmann’s very early dismissal.
Barcelona ran out comfortable 6-3 winners in their quarter-final meeting in 2010. The Spanish side actually blew a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at the Emirates in the first leg and then fell behind to a Nicklas Bendtner goal at Camp Nou. Lionel Messi then went on to score four goals…
The Spaniards prevailed in some controversy the following year. After Arsenal had won the first leg 2-1 at home. At 1-1 in the return leg, Robin van Persie was then controversially shown a second yellow card in the 56th minute before Barcelona scored two goals against 10 men to win on aggregate. This during a period of a couple of years when Barcelona were receiving incredibly friendly decisions from referees in big matches (other notable matches in the Champions League were versus Real Madrid and Internazionale).
Barcelona have always been the favourites to win the three previous ties but have been handed the advantage in two of them by playing versus 10 men. If Arsenal can keep 11 men on the field over 180 minutes – do they stand a chance? Some people, like Netticasino24.info, think you’ve got a better chance of winning at Roulette than you have of seeing Arsenal progress from this tie.
With Arsenal expected to still be in with a good shout of winning the 2015-16 Premier League come February, if not top of the league, Arsene Wenger will have little opportunity to relax and rotate heavily.
The Gunners face current league leaders Leicester City before the first leg at the Emirates, and Manchester United away afterwards. Before their trip to the Camp Nou, Arsenal host West Brom, and then travel to Everton afterwards. The fixtures haven’t fell too kind for the North London side and the Premier League certainly won’t help out with scheduling – the Premier League don’t do Friday night games for example.
Meanwhile, Barcelona go to Las Palmas (currently 19th/20) before the first leg and host Sevilla (7th) when they get back from London. Prior to hosting the Premier League side, Barcelona are at home to Getafe (14th) before facing Villarreal (5th) afterwards.
Of course, if Barcelona have opened up a gap at the top before then they can afford to rest a few players. Without being too disrespectful, Luis Enrique can probably rest players versus Las Palmas and Getafe and still come away with an easy six points.
The Barcelona front three will surely be too much for this Arsenal defence to handle – Per Mertesacker up against the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez on the night is surely going to put fear into their fans’ faces.
Hector Bellerin looks like a star in the making but recently he’s being beat by forwards – he hasn’t faced anyone of the calibre of Neymar so far this season. On top of that, Francis Coquelin is their only solid holding midfielder, unless Wenger is able to invest in a player who’s not cup tied, come January.
Barcelona are vulnerable at the back though which should make for a very exciting tie. Alexis Sanchez versus his former team, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla pulling the strings in the middle and Olivier Giroud’s height should give Arsenal a good advantage in the final third.
How much possession Arsenal will have remains to be seen, but having beat Bayern Munich in one of their two matches this season must give the Gunners a little bit of confidence they can pull off the upset in the second round.