Arsenal vs. Barcelona
UEFA Champions League: Round of 16 first leg
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Date: Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Kick off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Cüneyt Çakır (Tur)
In their two previous encounters, Arsene Wenger’s side remained unbeaten at the Emirates against Barcelona, but twice they succumbed to a Spanish masterclass when they turned up in the Camp Nou.
Still the pressure is both sides on Tuesday night. The Blaugrana are still on for an unprecedented double-treble, whilst the Gunners need to produce a performance to show that they deserve to be in such esteemed company and that they are genuine challengers for Europe’s top prize.
The quality of Luis Enrique’s team is such that it is hard to envisage Arsenal keeping them out for 90 minutes. The one saving grace for Wenger is that Barcelona’s away results have been less emphatic on the road than at home. That may keep the tie theoretically alive before the second leg in Spain.
Arsenal’s Premier League record: P26– W15– D6– L5
Barcelona’s La Liga record: P25– W20– D3– L2
Arsenal’s Recent form (all competitions): D-W-W-D-W
Barcelona’s Recent form (all competitions): W-W-W-D-W
Head to Head Stats (Last 5 matches):
08.03.11 CHA Barcelona 3 : 1 Arsenal
16.02.11 CHA Arsenal 2 : 1 Barcelona
06.04.10 CHA Barcelona 4 : 1 Arsenal
31.03.10 CHA Arsenal 2 : 2 Barcelona
17.05.06 CHA Barcelona 2 : 1 Arsenal
Arsenal team news:
- Wenger has passed Mesut Ozil fit after he was rested for the game against Hull due to illness, while Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and former Barca forward Alexis Sanchez are all likely to be back in the starting line-up.
- Defenders Kieran Gibbs and Gabriel Paulista are doubtful for Tuesday’s clash.
- Francis Coquelin should start here as the game comes too early for Jack Wilshere (leg) and Santi Cazorla (knee).
Barcelona team news:
- Arda Turan is suspended and Rafinha remains out with a knee injury, but the Camp Nou club have an otherwise strong squad to take to London, which includes former Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen.
Arsenal predicted starting line-up: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Sánchez, Giroud
Barcelona predicted starting line-up: ter Stegen, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Suárez, Neymar
Players to watch:
Petr Cech – The Czech international is arguably one of the best signings Arsene Wenger has ever made. Considering how many chances Barcelona will likely create, he should have lots of work to do. The former Chelsea man still looks impressive, convincing and stable between the posts, and the 33-year-old could be one who can make a difference. Amazingly, Leo Messi has never scored past the veteran goalkeeper.
Luis Suarez – The spectacular finisher with an ability to create goals from absolutely nothing. The Uruguayan is in stunning form and leads Europe’s top five league with 25 goals this season. Also, this campaign, he has scored as many goals as Arsenal have managed in the Premier League. Unlike Mess, El Pistolero has scored twice when he has faced Cech.
Match facts (via Opta):
- Arsenal, who finished second in Group F behind Bayern Munich, are the only team alongside Real Madrid to have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League every season since the new format in 2003/04. They have however been knocked out in the last 16 in each of the last five seasons.
- Barcelona, who finished top of Group E ahead of Roma, have made it to the knockout stages of the Champions League for the 12th consecutive campaign. They have reached the semi-finals in seven of the last eight campaigns. The only exception was in 2013/14 season, when they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Atletico Madrid.
- Barcelona have won the Champions League in four of the last 10 seasons. No other team has won it more than once in the same period. They could become the first team since AC Milan to win back-to-back European Cup/Champions League titles. The Rossoneri did it in 1989 & 1990.
- Barcelona have come out on top in each of their three previous Champions League home & away knockout encounters with Arsenal: 2006 final (2-1), 2009/10 quarter-final (6-3 on agg.) and 2010/11 Last 16 (4-3 on agg.).
- Arsenal and Barcelona’s seven previous Champions League encounters have produced 27 goals, an average of 3.86 per game.
- Arsenal have lost their Last 16 home tie in each of the previous three seasons, every time by a two goal margin (v Bayern Munich in 2012/13 and 2013/14, v Monaco in 2014/15).
- Arsenal have scored in their last 13 Champions League games, their best run since their 21 games in a row from October 2003 to November 2005.
- Barcelona have won 15 of their 19 Champions League games since last season (D2 L2). They’ve also never failed to score in those 19 games.
Prediction: Arsenal 1-2 Barcelona