There are very few pundits, or even Arsenal fans to be frank, who believe that Arsenal really can get the better of Barcelona in the Champions League and progress to the next round. But there is a huge reason that we can, and when I say huge I am not being flippant, because the reason is Petr Cech, who stands nearly two metres high in his stocking feet!
Arsenal beat Barcelona at the Emirates five years ago in this competition, and according to Pat Rice, the only reason we managed that was because of our keeper, no matter what our opinion of the young Pole is right now. Ricey said on Arsenal.com: “I remember that Wojciech Szczesny was absolutely outstanding in the opening 20 minutes,”
“He was absolutely brilliant and he kept us in the game. If he wasn’t in that kind of form then it could have been a cricket score by 20 minutes.
“What I remember most, though, is that the actual fightback by the boys was just incredible. When you take into consideration how we actually played and how well Barcelona played in the opening 20 minutes, it was remarkable that we won that match.
“Time will tell whether we can do that again this season, but hopefully history will repeat itself when we meet them again.”
I believe history can repeat itself, because now we have the world-class Petr Cech in goal, and he has been outstanding for us this season, but even more important is his unbelievable record against Lionel Messi. Cech has faced the brilliant Messi 8 times in his career with Chelsea, but he is yet to concede a goal against the player that has won the European Player of the Year on numerous occasions.
The closest Messi has come to scoring was with a penalty, but even then he only managed to smash it against the crossbar. At that time he had gone seven clear games and as Petr said himself. “I didn’t realise myself for a long time, but, last time we played them, somebody found out and then he missed a penalty and we managed to go to the final and we went on to win the Champions League.
“It’s great, not many people can say they’ve played eight games or how many minutes against Messi and he hasn’t found a way to get past me.
“But, if he scores and we progress to the next round, it’s not important.
“What’s important is for us to make sure that we give ourselves a chance to progress to the next round.
“As long as we keep progressing, if he scores a hat-trick and we go through, then I won’t mind.”
And I won’t mind at all either! One thing I do know, is that if we can beat them with Szczesny in goal, then I feel a lot more confident with Petr Cech in goal….