Premier League giants Arsenal will make the trip to the Nou Camp to face off against the champions of Spain and Europe on Wednesday night in the second leg of their round of 16 clash in the Champions League. It was the La Liga outfit who eventually dominated the first leg winning it 2-0, as Lionel Messi set the tone for his side to go through to the next round. A good counter attacking goal and a penalty kick, sealed the fate of the north London outfit back then. It will quite a tough game to go into, after being elminiated from the FA Cup, as Arsene Wenger’s side suffered yet another defeat as they lost 2-1 to Watford at the Emirates.
Barca are unbeaten in their last five games in all competitions with a total of 19 goals to their name, which is quite a solid tally. On the other hand, the Gunners have just won
once in the same number of games and will try to change that, though it will surely not be an easy match. In the last five meetings between the two sides, the visitors have just a single win with the Spanish outfit winning thrice and a 2-2 draw. The Spanish giants will go into this game at the back of a 6-0 win over Getafe, while the away side suffered a 2-1 loss to Watford at the weekend. It will be interesting to see how this game goes, though the home side are surely the favourites in the tie.
Wenger will have more problems in hand, as he will not be having various first choice players available for the tie. Petr Cech, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey will not be part of the squad. Center-back Laurent Koscielny is also a doubt for the match, as he has a “slight calf problem”, which would once again mean that Gabriel and Per Mertesacker
should possible start at the heart of the back-line.
Barcelona do not have any major injury concerns and will just be missing Spaniard Gerard Pique, who picked up a one-game ban towards the end of the first leg at the Emirates. Apart from that, Luis Enrique’s side should be at full strength.
Barcelona starting XI: Ter Stegen; Alves, Mascherano, Mathieu, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar.
Arsenal starting XI: Ospina; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal; Coquelin, Elneny, Campbell, Ozil, Sanchez; Welbeck.
1. Laurent Koscielny vs Lionel Messi:
Laurent Koscielny was confirmed to be fit by manager Arsene Wenger, as the made his return to training and is now in the squad in place of Calum Chambers. It will be interesting to see how Wenger uses him as the center-back will be up against Argentine maestro Lionel Messi and it will be important for the Arsenal defender to keep his man quiet. Messi scored a brace in the first leg and will be hungry for more goals this time around.
2. Alexis Sanchez vs Danny Alves:
It was a good intense battle between two friends in the first leg as well. Former Barca man Alexis Sanchez was up against his old team-mate Danny Alves on the wings. Though Sanchez did invite a lot of fouls on to him, the
fact that his side failed to score a single goal meant that the Brazilian succeeded in doing his job against his Chilean rival. The battle between the two stars could once again prove to be crucial in the upcoming tie.
Betting Odds: (bet365.com)
Barcelona 3-2 Arsenal
Got a feeling it will be an open game with both sides scoring goals, though the home side really seem unlikely of losing the match or tie. If Wenger’s side goes forward to press too much, they could be left exposed and might concede goals once again. Barca will not only win the game but also go through with ease to the next round.