Arsenal vs Barcelona in the Champions League has produced some fascinating games in recent years. The 2006 Champions League was of course contested by the two sides finishing up 2-1 in Barcelona’s favour. Then there was the 2010 Champions League Quarter final meeting which saw the sides draw 2-2 in the Emirates before Lionel Messi scored all 4 goals in a 4-1 second leg demolition of Arsene Wenger’s side. The teams most recent encounter was in the 2011 Champions League last 16. Arsenal won the first leg 2-1 at home but once again Lionel Messi came to Barcelona’s rescue in the Camp Nou scoring a hat trick with the Catalans wining 4-3 on aggregate.
Both teams have changed drastically since that meeting. Barcelona now have Luis Suárez and Neymar Jr along side Messi in their attack. Arsenal have Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez spearheading their attack. Barcelona come into this tie off the back of a shaky 2-1 win away to Las Palmas which stretches their current unbeaten streak to 32 games. Arsenal made the most of this weekends FA Cup action resting many key player against Hull however Sanchez was brought on to try and snatch a victory at the Emirates but had no such luck with the game ending 0-0.
For Alexis Sanchez it will be his first game against his former employers since he left the club in the summer of 2014. Sanchez was replaced by Luis Suárez who comes into this game in exceptional form. Currently the top goalscorer in La Liga Suárez has scored 12 goals in his last seven games. Luis Suárez returned to England at this stage with Barcelona last season scoring 2 goals against Manchester City.An ominous sign for Arsenal coming into this game – Suarez has 41 goals in all competitions this season the same amount as the entire Arsenal squad in the Premier League. Alexis Sanchez has been praised heavily by his former teammates especially Javier Mascherno who identified the Chilean and Ozil as Arsenal’s danger men. Mascherano had plenty of praise for Arsenals midfielders highlighting Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla as key cogs in the Arsenal machine.
Barcelona have named a 19 man squad for tomorrow nights game. Luis Enrique has brought Ter Stegen,Bravo, Masip,Alves,Vidal,Pique,Maschernao,Mathieu,Vermaelen,Adraino,Alba,Busquets,Iniesta,Rakitic,Roberto,Messi,Suárez,Neymar and Munir. Arda Turan is suspended for the first leg and Bartra,Douglas and Sandro been omitted from the traveling party.
- This game will be won or lost in midfield. Barcelona’s trident depend on their midfielders to supply them with possession. If Arsenal can disrupt the supply line they will soften the trios blow.
- Per Mertesacker needs protection tomorrow night. The pace of Neymar, Messi and Suárez will overwhelm the aging German who’s lack of pace has already been exploited by Chelea’s Diego Costa this season.
- Dani Alves will need support from Gerard Pique when dealing with Alexis Sanchez. The Brazilian has played poorly in recent games and a slip up tomorrow night could be costly.
The match kicks off at 7:45pm and is available on BT Sport and TV3.