March 30, 2010 - Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe
As we all know, Arsenal is matched up against Barcelona in the Round of 16 for the 2011 Champions League. Both are top teams in contending for different league championships and both have World Cup championship players. Barcelona is favored to win, they have dominated almost every team and have received praise from across the world, but this doesn't mean Arsenal wont have a chance. Here are some pros and cons of each team.
They have team chemistry second to none. All players play well together they have a sixth sense amongst each other, an almost telepathic connection between the midfielders and forwards (Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets, Messi, Pedro, Villa). The whole philosophy behind Barca is ball possession, technical skill, moving into open spaces and attacking while creating chances for others. The team has become masters at this, this season.
As for defending, Abidal has shown he's able to play and thrive at center back with Puyol being injured (he will most likely miss the match Wednesday) and Pique has shown he lead the back four.
The supporting forwards in David Villa and Pedro have each contributed 10-plus goals this season so far. Combined with Messi's brilliance, Barca has the most productive starting forwards in Europe.
Victor Valdes, not Iker Casillas, has been Spain's best goalie this season. Dani Alves has been very active coming forward from right back and assisting players via crosses. Not to mention they have one of the best mentors and leaders, manager Pep Guardiola. The injury bug has stayed away from the forwards and midfielders this year so far.
And finally, FCB has the best player in the world. Messi is on fire, scoring goals each game and is unstoppable. All this has contributed to their success in leading La Liga and beating Real Madrid 5-0 in el clasico. However, with positives come negatives.
Team captain Carles Puyol is out with injury so the team loses his leadership and dependency at the center back. Another thing that worries me is Barca have yet had a must-win-game this year when its tied late into the match, and they need a goal or spark coming off the bench.
I would like to see more proven, reliable scoring coming off the bench. Contract talks and dealing with racism reported by the media with Dani Alves—could it all become a distraction later this season? When Barca really presses their numbers forward, they are vulnerable to a counter-attack.
And now for the EPL team..
They have a free-flowing attack with Van Persie, Walcott and Arshavin. Walcott's blazing speed down the right side adds an extra dimension that that the opposing left back has to worry about.
Fabregas is the director of the offense and covers box to box for the gunners, his precision passing makes defenders stay on their mark because he is capable of any pass. Van Persie is one of the best finishers in the world. Sagna at right back is capable of coming forward and making plays.
Nasri, Arsenal's most consistent player, is out with injury and really weakens their midfield drastically and takes out a proven goal-scorer and playmaker. Rosicky is facing speculation regarding a fixed game and is being investigated by interpol, with the 4-4 tie with Newcastle after being up 4-0 at halftime—it may be a distraction.
The defense is definitely the Gunners weakness, having shown giving up big leads. Management didn't make any moves for transfers, to make the team better, during the January transfer window.
Lastly, could the friendship between Cesc and Pique affect the matchup? Most likely not. However, they will most certainly clash in the game and will be interesting to watch.
Both being my favorite teams, I'm not sure who I want to win. It will be a great game, so get it off from work, school, whatever.
Wednesday, February 16 1:45 PM
Thanks to @Amiry86 and @FCstartingXI for insights.