In two games at the Emirates Stadium, FC Barcelona, kings of Europe, are winless.
Those matches came in 2010 and 2011 when Pep Guardiola was in charge. Now, five years down the line, Luis Enrique has led the club to a treble in his first season. Arsenal are arguably closer to a Premier League title than they have been for a decade, and one hell of a night at the Emirates Stadium awaits us.
Can Arsène Wenger’s men defy the odds and head into the second leg with a lead?
A strong press conference from Arsène Wenger suggested Arsenal fear nobody, but the team appreciate that they are huge underdogs on Tuesday evening. If anything, the boss played to the underdog tag, taking any and all pressure off of his side ahead of a huge night.
After five consecutive last 16 exits, Wenger preached a balance between stability and risk taking, the Frenchman clearly isn’t interested in seeing his side leave themselves overly exposed on Tuesday considering it is only the first half of the tie.
Sat alongside the manger, Olivier Giroud also came across as confident. Arsenal have already beaten Bayern Munich this season, so why not Barça too?
There was no significant team news, with nobody returning and nobody new ruled out. Gabriel, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta are all unavailable.
Striker Danny Welbeck is fit to play after his first start in 10 months, but expect the same line up as the one that beat Leicester City just over a week ago.
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Alexis; Giroud.
Well, where do you start with Barcelona? With this particular Barça side the only place to start is with the front three. Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Neymar Junior. ‘MSN’. So far this season they have 91 goals between them in all competitions. They’re quite simply the best strikeforce in the world.
With that frontline and Ivan Rakitić replacing Xavi they’re far more direct than they once were, but just as deadly and chasing another treble. They’re strong at the back too and can’t even be pressed – Sergio Busquets is technically and tactically like no defensive midfielder the world has ever seen, Gerard Piqué is an absolute rock.
Arda Turan is now eligible to play for Barça in the competition but is suspended after a red card in the competition last season.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitić, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suárez, Neymar.
Beating Barcelona over two legs may well be impossible, at least for this current Arsenal team. However, we have huge star players ourselves, and if they perform we can cause any team out there a lot of problems. A good result will see us still in the tie before heading out to Spain, and that would at least be something in a matchup we’ve already been ruled out of by most.
If you’re heading down to the Emirates I ask three things:
- Be loud
- Be positive
- Be there for the entire match
Let’s give the players everything we’ve got because, if we don’t, how can we expect the same of them?