Arsenal-Barcelona: Arsenal Should Exploit Barcelona's Weaknesses
Two of the best teams in Europe lock horns in a thunderous match at the Emirates on Wednesday.
Defending champions Barcelona face a real test of character against the North London colossus, Arsenal.
This game is not a "clash of styles;" in fact, both teams more or less play a similar style of football so it's a "clash of style ."
Defending champions Barcelona are clear-cut favorites to win this quarterfinal tie, but Arsenal must try and exploit the weaknesses of the Catalan side to stand in with any chance for going through to the semifinals.
Barcelona have some of the best players in the world. Quality-wise they're a very
solid side. They've the right players to shrug off any opposition, whereas Arsenal relies heavily on Cesc Fabregas (who's a major doubt for this game) to force it through the midfield.
Dani Alves, undoubtedly the best right-back in the world, presents a great threat for Arsenal on the right-wing. Lionel Messi's combination play with Alves may well cause severe nail-biting moments for Arsenal.
So, the first thing Wenger needs to do is to tighten the screws on the right flank.
Alves should never be allowed to make those marauding runs into the Arsenal box. To do this, Gael Clichy must play at his very best. He's not in the best of form but he must rise to the occasion.
Xavi Hernandez is a key player for Barcelona and one of the greatest threats for Arsenal. His sublime vision and good passing range always crack the opposition defense wide open. Alex Song must be vigil throughout the game and should make life difficult for Xavi.
Victor Valdez is another weak spot in the Barcelona side. He's no Almunia, but still feeble compared to the high standards set by Barcelona over the years.
But, if you equate both the goalkeepers, Barcelona have a huge advantage over Arsenal. Almunia is a muck and against the likes of Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic he's going to struggle.
It wouldn't be surprising if Barcelona opts for long range shooting to test one of the worst netminders left in the last eight of the competition.
The same goes for Arsenal too.
The Gunners must test Valdez from long range whenever possible. Actually, Wenger likes his team to pass the ball into the net, but in this game that would be extremely difficult, so he should order his troops to shoot from distance.
Barcelona's left-back, Maxwell, is another weak link and Arsenal must exploit this by fielding Samir Nasri on the right wing. And Gael Clichy must make overlapping runs through the flanks to support him. By doing so, Maxwell will be pushed on to the back foot and will make work easier for the Arsenal midfield.
Iniesta's absence might be a blessing in disguise for Barcelona. He has been not at his best in recent games, and it would be better to play an in-form player like Pedro in his place.
Most likely, Keita will get a chance to start, and his physical approach may cause some problems for Arsenal.
Barcelona's backline is not the strongest.
Milito and Puyol are not the youngest of the defenders and Arsenal must take advantage of these slow defenders, but frontman Nicklas Bendtner can be awkward at times.
He must concentrate on doing the simple things rather than going for a headed-goal from 40-yards out. He should be ruthless and must put away any half-chances that comes his way.
Wenger has got a tough decision to make. He must choose the centre-back partnership wisely.
Thomas Vermaelen and Sol Campbell are the likely candidates to play, but Campbell's lack of pace may prove costly in the end, so another option would be to play Alex Song alongside Vermaelen—but that leaves the defensive midfield slot empty.
Denilson's lack of strength is not going to help so Wenger cannot afford to play this lightweight Brazilian against the best side in Europe.
Arsenal's home form is intimidating but against Barcelona that form has got nothing to do. The performance on the day must be ruthless.
It will be a cracker of a match, and Arsenal's lush green turf will witness one of the greatest games to be ever played at this wonderful stadium.
Andrei Arshavin must shun his casual approach and should improve his all-round contribution.
Also, Bendtner shouldn't repeat Burnley here. He's a decent striker but not the one you would like to see in a game like this.
Fabregas's absence will make it difficult—in fact, extremely difficult—for Arsenal.
The chances of him being fit for this game are 40 percent and Wenger is poised to make a late call on his availability, but I feel he's going to sit out.
I am going for a 2-2 draw.
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