Champions League Last 16 Preview: Arsenal vs. Barcelona

Matty HawkinsContributor IFebruary 14, 2011

Messi Celebrates drubbing Arsenal last year
Messi Celebrates drubbing Arsenal last yearShaun Botterill/Getty Images

On Wednesday evening, Barcelona travel to the Emirates for a second-year running to face one of the many overrated English Premier League sides in the form of Arsenal.

It was merely a year ago since the Catalans graced London and produced arguably the finest first half performance ever seen—barring their recent 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid. How Arsenal salvaged a draw in that game is still unfathomable.

 

Ignorance

Several of the Gunners' players have formally announced their confidence of beating the best club side ever assembled. Jack Wilshere, a guy who has no standing in the game whatsoever, stated that he has a specific game plan to stop the midfield maestros Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets.

Naive comments like these have previously proved costly for Barcelona's opposition—most recently Christiano Ronaldo joking, "Let's see if they can stroke eight past us," then almost finding himself eating his own words.

Arsenal will take heart from the fact they have a fitter team than last year, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Andrei Arshavin and Robin van Persie back in the mix.

But that will prove insignificant to the outcome as a player cannot influence a match without having a touch of the ball.

Often is the case that Arsenal compare themselves to the passing game—the total football—of Barca. Never has this falsity been highlighted more than in last year's run out when Arsenal chased shadows for the best part of seventy minutes.

 

Confident

Meanwhile, if it was possible, the Catalans have further improved since then. The addition of "El Guage," formally David Villa, to the front line of Messi and Pedro has proved menacing, producing nigh on 100 goals between them this season already.

However, Puyol still remains a doubt for the clash, despite returning to light training today.

Barcelona will likely look to establish a healthy three or more goal surplus to take back to Camp Nou, and if Messi is in the mood there's no cap as to how many could fly past Wojciech Szczesny.

Pedro insists, "It'll be different from last year", yet remains confident that it will be "a good open game".

"We're going out to win the game. Getting a decent result in the first leg is always good and we hope to do that and finish it off at home".

 

Prediction

A routine show of genius and a usual midfield master-class from Xavi Hernandez. Messi to get a couple with Pedro and Villa joining the act.

Arsenal 0 - 4 Barcelona

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