North London giants Arsenal host Barcelona at the Emirates, as the two sides face off in the round of 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday evening. Both sides will go into the game unbeaten in their last five matches in all competitions and will want to put in an impressive performance once again, taking the advantage of the second leg. Further, the Catalan club have not lost a single game in 2016, have scored 45 goals in 15 games and have just conceded 9 goals. They are at present on top of the La Liga table and are looking in superb form.
On the other hand, after an impressive start to their Premier League campaign, the Gunners have slowly faded away in recent times and are currently placed at the third spot on the table. The home side will want to get back to winning ways and can hopefully put in a solid performance against the champions of Spain and Europe.
Manager Arsene Wenger will hope that his side can deliver when it matters the most and finally go beyond this cursed round in the cup competition, which has become a major obstacle for them in the last few years. The Spanish club has a world-class attack and it will be a tough task to keep the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar quite in the fixture.
The Londoners have five players out injured for this fixture, which includes four midfielders and one defender. Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta will not be fit in time to make a comeback to the team, along with Gabriel Paulista, who recently picked up a thigh injury.
Also, Barca will be without Rafina(injured) and former Atletico Madrid man Adra Turan, who is suspended for the game on their travels. Apart from these two players, the rest of the squad will be available for selection and Luis Enrique will surely be a happy manager.
Arsenal: Petr Cech; Hector Bellerin, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal; Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey; Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott; Olivier Giroud
Barcelona: Claudio Bravo; Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba; Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta; Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar
1. Lionel Messi vs Nacho Monreal:
The hosts will be keen to keep Lionel Messi quiet on the right hand side and it will be Nacho Monreal who will be up against the Argentine maestro. The Spaniard has been impressive with some disciplined performances this season and will have to be at his very best, as he goes up against the Barcelona talisman. Whether or not Monreal is up to the task, remains to be seen. One thing remains certain that the Messi threat will never cease to exist for any side who face the Spanish outfit.
2. Olivier Giroud vs Gerard Pique:
The Arsenal striker always seems to underperform when his side needs him the most in European ties and it will be up to Wenger to ensure that the attacker does not mess up this time around. The France international will be up against center-back Pique, who will look to keep him quiet in the game. Both the players will want to use their physical strength to dominate their opponent and who comes on top remains to be seen.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-3 Barcelona
There is no doubt that Arsenal have not been in the best of form in recent weeks and it should be the away team who should end up winning the game by a couple of goals.