After almost slipping out of the Champions League in the group stages, Arsenal should count themselves lucky to even be involved in the last-16 round of the competition. Having said that, with a potential two-legged tie with Barcelona on the horizon, many Gunners supporters may be damning their luck after Arsene Wenger’s side were handed the worst possible draw – especially after the Spanish side knocked Arsenal out of the competition in 2010 and 2011.
“FC BARCELONA – ARSENAL 8 MAR 2011” (CC BY 2.0) by Shht!
The Gunners are flying high in the Premier League but will struggle to compete against the force of Barcelona. Luis Enrique’s men are in phenomenal form and completed their second treble in six years in the 2014-15 season. Barcelona already have their eye on more silverware this season and could become the first team in history to earn back-to-back treble successes. With Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez in inspired form, it would take a brave man to bet against them.
Arsenal are already viewed as rank outsiders in this contest. While they may be quietly confident of their chances at home, the Camp Nou is a horrible venue for visiting sides and the Gunners will be tested to their limits during the second leg – especially if the aggregate score is close. Ahead of the first leg, Arsenal are 10/3 in bet365’s uefa competitions betting markets to advance to the quarter-finals and Wenger’s side will have to be at their very best to even match Barcelona.
Having said that, Arsenal aren’t exactly in bad form themselves and if luck is on their side, they are more than capable of sneaking into the next round. Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey have both been superb but Mesut Ozil has been the mastermind behind their early season success and is perhaps the key reason for their current league position. With Alexis Sanchez also set to return, Arsenal should have all of their stars fit and raring to go for the first leg, which takes place on February 23rd.
However, the Gunners must remain focused and organised defensively or risk being picked apart by the best front three in world football and, potentially, the greatest of all time. In 2015, Messi, Suarez and Neymar netted an incredible 137 goals – more than the entire Real Madrid team combined. As an attacking trio, they are almost unplayable at times and Per Mertesacker and company will need to have their wits about them if they are to cope with Barcelona’s juggernaut strikeforce.
Arsenal haven’t featured in the Champions League quarter-finals since 2010 and the Gunners will be up against it once again in this clash. If Wenger’s side play at their very best, they stand a chance. Anything less, and Barcelona will be too strong. One thing’s for sure, it’s bound to be exciting for the neutral!