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Can Arsenal turn Barca tide?

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Phil McNulty | 11:59 UK time, Friday, 17 December 2010

As Arsenal's players and management formed an orderly queue to declare their desire to face Barcelona in the Champions League, an old adage played on many lips: "Be careful what you wish for."

The bold declarations also carried a hollow sound, coming as they did after Arsenal had edged unconvincingly into the last 16 with victory in their final group game against Partizan Belgrade.

And who can forget last season's dismantling of the Gunners by Lionel Messi and co?

Inevitably, Arsenal were handed a tie against the Barcelona side manager Arsene Wenger had already labelled as "super favourites" to reclaim the Champions League they won in such style against Manchester United in Rome in 2009.

Arsenal have certainly been handed the toughest draw of all four Premier League representatives. Spurs will be severely examined by another trip to the San Siro when they face AC Milan, while Manchester United and Chelsea will be hopeful of progress against Marseille and FC Copenhagen.

It is Arsenal's latest confrontation with Barcelona, however, that fires the imagination - even among those at the Nou Camp. Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique both fired instant Twitter messages in the direction of countryman Cesc Fabregas.

And for the game's purists as well as those fortunate to spend the glorious night of 31 March last year at the Emirates, these are two games that cannot come soon enough.

The first 20 minutes produced by Barcelona will live forever in the memory, the Catalans enjoying 75% of possession and Arsenal's portion seemingly accounted for by saves from goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

Just as memorable was the character shown by Arsenal in coming from two goals down to somehow fashion a draw from a game in which they were outclassed for long periods.

Barcelona cruised through in the second leg courtesy of an attacking masterclass led by Messi, who scored four times in response to Nicklas Bendtner's early goal for the Gunners.

Arsenal's players have privately craved this draw since qualification insisting they have no fear of Pep Guardiola's superstars, although in their heart of hearts Schalke 04 would surely have been their preferred opponents.

Messi chips Manuel AlmuniaMessi's magic left Arsenal in tatters. Photo: Getty Images

"Realistically, Barcelona are super favourites in this competition but you take what you get," said Wenger. "If it's Barcelona, it's Barcelona. We have played them already last season. We are in a strong position in the Premier League, qualified in the Champions League and in the semi-final of the Carling Cup. We have plenty of exciting challenges but also room for improvement. I am confident we will improve."

And as he gazed into his crystal ball before the draw and successfully predicted its eventual outcome, he said: "If I say we want Barcelona, you won't believe me. I don't even think about it. I hope we get who I feel we will get."

Theo Walcott is equally bullish, insisting: "I would love to go back there and show them what we are all about this season.

"I think we have had great experience and now we can progress. The team has improved, new personnel have come in and we've been fortunate with injuries this season. We want to win some silverware for the fans because they have waited too long.

"As long as we don't get Barcelona on a day when they play Real Madrid and win 5-0. They were fantastic that day. It doesn't matter to us. We will play anyone, we will enjoy ourselves and try to win the game."

Arsenal's stance is perfectly understandable. They were hardly going to make public any private terrors or demons they may have about facing a team that produce fantasy football on a regular basis.

For all the optimism, however, will the outcome be any different this time? Wenger, and rightly so, will believe Arsenal can flourish against a Barcelona side that will allow them to play their natural game.

Arsenal have the creation and imagination to examine Barcelona thoroughly but they will have to stand toe-to-toe with a world-class collection of players perfectly equipped to beat them at their own game.

The problem for Arsenal is that their natural game is effectively a Barcelona-lite. Personnel may change between now and when the sides meet but a confrontation between any Arsenal defence and any Barcelona attack would appear to be a worrying prospect for Wenger, irrespective of who plays.

Arsenal will take solace from the manner in which Walcott's pace unsettled Barcelona last season but Wenger will hope Thomas Vermaelen can be restored to full health to strengthen his options to tackle Messi and David Villa. Arsenal's defence looks suspect in the hands of Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci.

For the neutral, it is a dream draw. The game at the Emirates last season was a classic, a meeting of cultures and philosophies between Wenger and Guardiola.

Spurs, Arsenal's north London neighbours, will be back on familiar territory when they face Serie A leaders AC Milan. Harry Redknapp's side were impressive in qualification, never more than when they blitzed holders Inter 3-1 on a memorable night at White Hart Lane.

The two games with Rafael Benitez's side encapsulated the pros and cons of Tottenham's Champions League campaign. Goals for are as guaranteed as goals against, as proved in the 4-3 win defeat in the San Siro, and they will see weaknesses that can be exposed in Milan's rearguard.

Spurs will be a threat to anyone left in the competition at White Hart Lane but that fragile defence will need tightening if the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alex Pato, Robinho and company are to be kept at bay.

Redknapp, like his Arsenal counterparts, was in optimistic mood as he said: "I would have taken AC Milan before the draw. They are leading the league in Italy but it has the makings of a great game over two legs. I'm looking forward to it."

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson will be satisfied to meet Marseille, who will be testing opponents but hardly an insurmountable obstacle. It will mark a return to Old Trafford for Gabriel Heinze, who left United for Real Madrid in acrimonious circumstances in 2007 after a failed bid to force a move to Liverpool.

United will have no room for complacency as Marseille proved their threat by beating Chelsea in the group phase. The atmospheric Stade Velodrome will be alive with passion as Marseille continue their renaissance under coach Didier Deschamps but United will feel they have enough in their armoury to reach the last right.

Chelsea themselves can have no complaints about pulling FC Copenhagen out of the bag, a draw that was about as good as coach Carlo Ancelotti could have expected given that the Danish champions are widely regarded as one of the weakest sides left in the Champions League.

Copenhagen have a formidable record on home territory but Chelsea will feel their chances are improved even further by the fact that the tie takes place during the Danish League's winter break.

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Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    in 1 word no
    in 2 words no chance
    in 3 words messi, villa and iniesta!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Arsenal are effectively a poor man's Barcelona, they've got to be at their absolute 100% best else they stand little chance... not a formality but very, very difficult... IF Barcelona are still in this kind of form come February.

    Spurs have a good chance of making it through, I think the thing that convinces me they're favourites is the second leg being at White Hart Lane... they could give Barcelona a game there.

    Man United & Chelsea have both got great draws, which as a Chelsea fan i'm absolutely delighted with. Two fantastic draws for neutrals for the North London clubs, and the chance to see United and Chelsea both go one step further to that all-English Wembley final. If Carlsberg did Champions League draws...

  • Comment number 3.

    Phil you keep going on about how Barca outclassed Arsenal in the away leg but you continually fail to mention that half our team was out injured!! If in a few months time we go there and the rolls are reversed I bet all you be doing is saying that Arsenal then beat a weakened Barca team.

    I for one am glad we got Barca this round because if we beat them we will continue on and if not we will go out early and will have the chance to focus on the other tournaments.

    Also don't forget Arsenal was also the team no group winner wanted to get!! As you said which match is tougher. The Arsenal V Barca or the Spurs v AC match?

  • Comment number 4.

    Easy to answer:

    not a chance. :)

  • Comment number 5.

    I would guess Arsenal are not favourites. At full strength and with 2 good nights they could triumph. The problem is the second leg is at Nou Camp with 90000 Barca fans buoying on Messi, Xavi & co.

    Arsenal should definitely try to win the League Cup. The league I think they could win - but they need Arshavin playing with intensity, they need Fab and RVP fit, and they need Vermaleen fit and maybe another quality cente-half.

  • Comment number 6.

    I can't see anything else other than a Barca win on aggregate, even if Arsenal play well over 180 minutes I think Barca will still edge it. I'm looking forward to it anyway though, last season's games were absolute classics!

    Looking forward to the Spurs game too, they've been exciting to watch this year, AC Milan are doing well domestically, much better than Inter are, but I predict Spurs to thrash them at home. Bale will have a field day with the oldies! ;)

    Chelsea v Copenhagen sounds a bit of a bore fest if you ask me. I hope i'm wrong.

  • Comment number 7.

    I may be wrong and I'm contradicting myself by writing on the blog but I don't see much interest in this topic, a bit boring don't you think Phil. Better to ask the question, is the draw rigged, because United always get easy draws

  • Comment number 8.

    dont get me wrong Arsenal play great football but Barca are just on a different planet unless you defend against them like Inter did last season. Arsenal do not play like Inter though.
    Spurs and Utd I feel will struggle but Utd should scrape through and Chelsea..well that depends on what Chelsea turn up!!

  • Comment number 9.

    I heard Walcott say after Arsenal qualified from the group "Barcelona, we'll go and "do" them again".

    This guy seriously needs a reality check. Over two legs he'll be shown how brilliantly natural footballers have reached their athletic peak. Not attempts to mould a sprinter into a footballer

  • Comment number 10.

    #3 Nick_Hove_Actually

    ''Phil you keep going on about how Barca outclassed Arsenal in the away leg but you continually fail to mention that half our team was out injured!!''

    This excuse is wearing pretty thin.

    Yes, Arsenal were a bit depleted, but they were totally outclassed by Barça over both legs.

    Arsenal will surely get outclassed again in February, and I hope that there won't be too many whinging gooners offering feeble excuses once again.

    Arseanl just aren't a match for Barcelona, and there is no shame in acknowledging that.

  • Comment number 11.

    One thing of course is if you are going to go out to the favourites you may as well get it out of the way early. A key part of Chelsea's double success was their Champions League exit. Whilst they had week of preperation for the crucial showdown at Old Trafford, United had it sandwiched inbetween two intense matches against Bayern Munich one of which was played for almost a half with 10 men.

  • Comment number 12.

    "is the draw rigged, because United always get easy draws"

    Which is why they've been drawn against Barcelona twice in the knockout stages since 2008. Clearly you haven't given this point much thought. Concentrating on the league already?

  • Comment number 13.

    @ Comment #1.

    I think you'll find your 'In 3 words' comment was using four words!

    Why can Arsenal beat Barcelona?

    In one word: Bendtner.

    In two words: Nicklas Bendtner.

    In three words: Super Nicklas Bendtner!

  • Comment number 14.

    To colinbell...does the name give away why you seem upset by Manchester United's draw in the last 16 of the Champions League? I suspect so.

    On the draw itself, my tips would be Barcelona to beat Arsenal - and do not take this as some sort of brief against Arsenal or Arsene Wenger because on current form I would back them to beat all of the Premier League's representatives.

    I think Spurs have a real fighting chance against AC Milan while I expect Chelsea and Manchester United to go through.

    Not finding much optimism among Arsenal fans here. There must be some of you out there who think they can overturn last season's result. If so, let us know your reasoning.

    And have to disagree with claims that Arsenal were simply undone by injuries against Barca last season. They were beaten by a vastly superior footballing side and there is no shame in that.

  • Comment number 15.

    ''Phil you keep going on about how Barca outclassed Arsenal in the away leg but you continually fail to mention that half our team was out injured!!''

    This excuse is wearing pretty thin.
    ----------------

    Why exactly? Is it not possible to justify a loss against the worlds best team by stating that around half the first team was injured, and certainly our most important players such as VanP, Cesc and Arshavin. Tommy V was also injured if I remember correctly.

  • Comment number 16.

    stop with the 'half the team were injured' rubbish. Football is now a squad game, so if your team has a poor squad blame the chairmen and manager. That's why my team is so awful at the moment..a poor squad

  • Comment number 17.

    Wenger put Arsenal in this position. He did not field his first team against Shaktar and Braga away. After losing to Shaktar one would have expected him to field the best against Braga yet he did not except playing unfit Fabrigas who got injured later in the game. Arsenal has a manager who refuses to listen to anyone. The midfield is weak as well as defense not to mention experimenting on goalkeepers.He is more concerned about the cost of a player than quality and as such ends up replacing good players with inferior ones. As long as the fans keep on pardoning Wenger for his arrogance and the board giving him full support, Arsenal will not win the Premier league.The match against Manchester united was a disgrace. The worst player was Clichy. One hopes Gibbs recovers and Wenger forgets seniority and play him. On their day Manchester United would have humiliated Wenger who likes to talk, talk and achieve nothing for years always giving a lame excuse- the pitch etc. Arsenal will be eliminated by Barca. That will give Wenger space to face the league to try and salvage Champions league place for another season. Wenger has taken Arsenal so far as he could and he should be humble enough to resign. His team cannot be regarded as young, as years pass by

  • Comment number 18.

    Not a chance. But I think this would also be the case for the other english teams against Barca at the moment. After watching Man Utd V Arsenal the week after el Clasico, Barca are on a different planet to every other club team.
    Is there a single player in either Man U or Arsenal team who could get into the Barca team?

  • Comment number 19.

    Great draw but too early in the competition for my liking. We are paying for not winning our group.
    Anyway, I think we will give a better account of ourselves if we have our most influential players match-fit. This means Van Persie, Fabregas, Nasri, Song, Vermaelen and Walcott. If these guys are on the teamsheet at both matches, then it will go down to a single goal (or even goal difference) dividing the teams.
    Whatever happens I hope the games are really good to watch.

  • Comment number 20.

    "And have to disagree with claims that Arsenal were simply undone by injuries against Barca last season. They were beaten by a vastly superior footballing side and there is no shame in that."

    ---

    No one believes that injuries were the sole reason for the exit; the outcome probably would have been the same if we had a full team. But surely you can see it would have made a difference, we didn't stand a chance.

    Maybe take away a few of Barcas best players and have our best team out and it would be an even match-up.

    Big players win big matches. Hopefully this year we can give them more of a game.

  • Comment number 21.

    I would have to say I'm excited about this fixture, surely I would have us face a Germany team, but not sure if we will go through. Our current form has been anything but dismal. I know the team can deliver as they are the most technically gifted in the PL, but they lack the main ingredient that makes a player great, ambition and fighting spirit.

    Yes, we lost to a team that was technically superior to us when we met last season but I know we can match them, we have the player to do the job but they would have to put their act together.

    Finally, I do pray that all our squad will be fit so that we won't hear the excuse that such and such player was injured and that's why we lost. I'm, even if I love Arsene and Arsenal so much, sick and tired of X and Y reason to why we lose games. I would have to say we have already heard all the reasons there is to be given to why we loose a game. We have to man up when we loose and say the other team has done something right for us to loose. There is time between now and when the game will be played and I do hope and pray we improve before then. Adieu!

  • Comment number 22.

    #16

    What a daft thing to say. No club in the world can replace their stars if injured. Against Barcelona in the first leg last year, Arsenal were missing a few key players and still matched them. In the second leg, Arsenal were missing four centre-backs, Fabregas, van Persie, etc etc.

    If Arsenal put out a full-strength team, they can beat Barca because, contrary to what Mcnulty writes, they don't play a 'Barca-lite' style. Their first team is unarguably slightly weaker, but they play an even more combination-focussed game than Barca as a result. When it works, it more than makes up for the small difference in the skill-levels of the players.

  • Comment number 23.

    The only chance Arsenal have of winning the champions league is once the financial fair play kicks in.

    Unfortunately you are not likely to win it unless you are willing to be hundreds of millions in debt buying talent, i.e. Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid etc.

    Sad but true...

  • Comment number 24.

    I'm not offering it as an excuse. We were beaten by a much better team. Just fed up with the negative press we get from a lot of hacks!!

  • Comment number 25.

    Arsenal will NOT be allowed to play their 'natural game'. Did you watch the games last season?

    Arsenal couldn't string 2 passes together due to the huge pressure by Barcelona and limited technical ability compared to Barcelona.

    It's something regularly ignored by pundits but Arsenal have shown a lack of possession football and good passing games against ANY top club.

    The recent United/Chelsea and even Liverpool game come to mind where they were bullied off the ball.

  • Comment number 26.

    #7

    Wenger's comments suggested he knew the result before the draw was made. Probably joking, though.

  • Comment number 27.

    Oh yes Colin Bell, he's a legend up here in the North East..............away the lads
    Seriously though.......oh forget it

  • Comment number 28.

    " Arsenal can flourish against a Barcelona side that will allow them to play their natural game."
    Phil when us ay this i disagree very strongly. Do you even watch Barcelona play? They wont let Arsenal play their game at all as Barcelona press harder than any other team to win back possession so as not give their opponnents any of the ball. Considering Arsenal's natural game involves a lions share of the ball look at Barcelonas posseion stats and say again will Barcelona let Arsenal play their game? I dont see Barcelona sitting back and letting Arsenal do anything of their usual play.

  • Comment number 29.

    Phil,

    You and alot of others seem to believe that barca will let Arsenal play their own game. Crazyness.

    Barca at 10% better than anyone with the ball. Without it they are 50% better than anyone else. I have never seen a team better at getting the ball back and its something they never get credit for. You think Ronaldo just couldnt be bothered the other week? What about ozil? Alonso?

    They were put under more pressure than they have ever been in their lives, just like arsenal will be

  • Comment number 30.

    22. dave
    Read my lips..it's a squad game and i'm not even sure Wegner had 4 cb's last year, again another failing at the club. Lets not get started on Van Persies injury record either shall we??

  • Comment number 31.

    Quite entertaining this saga about Arsenal facing Barcelona, hoping to progress. Of course, it would be a valid hope if Arsenal had something solid to display in success achieved in home soil, but....
    One question comes to my mind: given how desperately short Arsenal are in experience, in defence, in a good goalkeeper, had they been drawn against an easier opposition, how many million quid would they have available for a decent transfer target?
    Another question mark is that Perhaps Wenger preferred Barcelona in case they lose comfortably to another strong team. Losing to Barcelona hides inefficiencies at Arsenal, quite conveniently.

    Pity Spurs were not mentioned in this article as much. Thet had great success on their first appearance in the competition. AC Milan will be a more valid examination of their strength, as AC Milan lead the table in Italy, while Inter Milan seem to be deteriorating by the day.

    Best opponents possible for Manchester United and Chelsea.

  • Comment number 32.

    It's going to be a very interesting tie as an Arsenal fan. I think we definitely have a stronger team this year with the emergence of Nasri, Wilshere and bringing Chamakh in. However, Barcelona only play one style of football, which Arsenal try their best to replicate. Barcelona are very simply better at that style of play.
    That said I really do hope we can give them a good game, and if nothing else have a full strength team/squad so we can really give it our best go against, undoubtedly, the best.

  • Comment number 33.

    "1. At 3:07pm on 17 Dec 2010, messien wrote:

    in 1 word no
    in 2 words no chance
    in 3 words messi, villa and iniesta!!"

    "messi, Villa, AND Iniesta" is 4 words

  • Comment number 34.

    30. Reinasbaldhead

    Over a season perhaps, but it's not as simple as that when it comes to individual matches.

    Imagine Barca lose Messi, Xavi, Puyol and Villa for the Arsenal game. They have a great squad, but obviously the replacements aren't as good. You'd start to favour Arsenal more, wouldn't you?

    Now reverse that, and with Barca already being better than Arsenal (this is undoubted), it makes winning virtually impossible.

  • Comment number 35.

    Not finding much optimism among Arsenal fans here. There must be some of you out there who think they can overturn last season's result. If so, let us know your reasoning.

    And have to disagree with claims that Arsenal were simply undone by injuries against Barca last season. They were beaten by a vastly superior footballing side and there is no shame in that.
    --------

    Difficult to be optimistic and say 'we will win' but we have a chance yes.

    Why do you 'have to disagree' about the injuries Phil? Are you really so short sighted that you can't understand that taking away half our first team (imagine Barca without Messi, Xavi, Inesta and Puyol) meant we had very little chance?

    Yes we were beaten by a better team, but maybe a full strength team wouldn't have been, it isn't rocket science.

  • Comment number 36.

    Read my lips..it's a squad game and i'm not even sure Wegner had 4 cb's last year, again another failing at the club. Lets not get started on Van Persies injury record either shall we??


    I take it you must be a Liverpool fan based on your username? Let's not start with failings at our respective clubs.. you will lose.

  • Comment number 37.

    I'm most interested in the Milan Spurs clash (after UTD, of course).

    They are on a real rollercoaster in Europe and it has been great to watch. Hopefully they can keep Dawson fit and maybe bring in another strong central midfielder. I think they have every chance to progress. They topped their group without Defoe, Dawson and a few others.

    Arsenal, I can see nothing but failure. Barca will match them defensively and take them to the sword in attack. Will the pitch be good enough to play on, that is the big question?

    Chelsea and UTD should have no problems, although I am not taking anything for granted, Marseille are a good outfit and on the up.

  • Comment number 38.

    If Arsenal had a defence they might have a chance.

    Oh, and an offence.

  • Comment number 39.

    so where is the blog for the europa league draw then?

  • Comment number 40.

    Phil-As you have stated this was the tie Arsenal's players had been saying they wanted all along - now comes the test!
    I'm not an Arsenal fan but I think that if they can put up any kind of competitive show against Barcelona, that can help wipe away memories of the 'humbling' they got last year, then even if they eventually go out of the CL at Barca's hands, it may still help them (mentally at least) in terms of the domestic competitions.
    Arsenal under Wenger are rightly lauded for their passing skills and flair, last year however the got 'mauled', publicly as it were, by those who they seek to copy; for any professional, nothing hurts more, or stings more than getting thrashed, at something you think you are good at - which is what happened for the first twenty minutes of that game, and for what its worth Manual Alumina should now be considered a legend at the Emirates, since for those twenty minutes he and he alone, stood against Barcelona and prevented them going at least 0-5 up!
    However, I don't think he will every get the recognition- do you?

  • Comment number 41.

    It's not going to be easy but we can win if we learn to defend between now and the first leg, we must win the first leg to have a fighting chance by more than 1 goal.

    Wenger please buy a GK and CB in jnauary capable of holding such talent, we are going to face the likes of Barca every year if we qualify regularly so buy players of that quality.

    I also bet Barcelona would have preferred Schalke to Arsenal as well.

    We can score goals against them but damn we will ship goals with the current defence. Shouldn't have to rely on a fit vermaelen the replacements of squillaci and kos whatever are not good enough for the shirt from what i've seen so far.

  • Comment number 42.

    in 1 word no
    in 2 words no chance
    in 3 words messi, villa and iniesta!!"

    ======================================

    In 4 words: Messi, Villa, Iniesta Xavi

  • Comment number 43.

    #18

    Yes, there are players who would get into the Barca team. Vidic would, a fit Rooney, Evra over Abidal, perhaps Nani, perhaps Fletcher over Mascherano. Perheps Pep would fit Cesc in the starting 11. Maybe Nasri over Pedro. Maybe a fit and in form RVP over Villa...Villa hasn't exactly set the world alight this year.

  • Comment number 44.

    34. No I wouldn't favour Arsenal more because Barca still have Bojan, Jeffren, Keito, Millito etc
    36. Hey thanks for joining us treacle, but try reading my previous posts as I have already covered this point

  • Comment number 45.

    I predicted (although hardly a prediction worthy of praise) that Barca would beat Arsenal and get through in the tie. Im sorry to announce a repeat this year. Arsenal - you are just not good enough. Your strikers arent good enough and your defence isnt hard enough. Your passing isnt anywhere like it was 3 seasons ago either.

    To use the train announcements that have to be used far too often, below.

    Sorry to announce that the 1945 to The Champions League Final Quarter final has been delayed by at least One season - please listen out for further announcements. I'm sorry for the delay this will cause your service.

  • Comment number 46.

    Oh and forgot to say, as a spectacle i'd rather watch arsenal v barca than Chelsea against copenhagen and i expect most chelsea fans will as well!

    The competition is designed for great games like these and although i expect us to lose i'm gonna enjoy the games and build up.

    8 goals last season in this tie, just a shame 3/4's of them were from Barca and 1/2 were Messi!!

  • Comment number 47.

    I doubt barca will let arsenal come back into the match, like they did in Emirates, after going 2 nil up. They droppd gears, got overconfident. I reckon the tie will be over in the 1st leg this time around.

  • Comment number 48.

    43. Nani over Messi or pedro, RVP over Villa and fletcher over Busquets or Masch...haha you must be in dream world lad.
    Vidic - maybe, Rooney - maybe and Evra I agree with

  • Comment number 49.

    Man Utd v Chelsea final, no thank you it would be up there with the most boring football matches in history. Arsenal v Tottenham would be one of the greatest, heck I really hope Spurs can get really far as they can in the competition to inject some life into it.

    They've been a breath of fresh air (cliche saying but it is true) never knowing which team is going to turn up and you're guaranteed goals.

  • Comment number 50.

    Milan is a great draw for us. They are obviously a massive club, plus I think we can give them a really good game. We have the likes of Bale, Lennon and Defoe to trouble their defence, while our triumvirate of Modric, van der Vaart and Huddlestone should be able to put up a good fight in the middle of the pitch.

    I think a key factor will be getting King and Gallas fit for those games. They are both superb defenders with a lot of experience, and they will be crucial in ensuring we come out of the San Siro with a decent result. We can beat most teams at the Lane, so I see that as possibly the deciding factor for the tie. The likes of Dawson, Kaboul and Bassong are very good and I'm sure they will prove to be the future of our defence, but we need some cool, experienced heads at the San Siro. If we have a 'mare like we did in the first-half at the San Siro against Inter, the tie could be over before we head back to the Lane.


    #3 Nick_Hove_Actually:
    "Phil you keep going on about how Barca outclassed Arsenal in the away leg but you continually fail to mention that half our team was out injured!!"

    … and you in turn fail to mention the players Barca were missing.

    In the first leg, both sides were pretty much at full strength. You were missing van Persie, while they were missing Iniesta and Abidal.

    For the second leg, both sides was depleted. You were missing Gallas, Song, Fabregas, Arshavin and van Persie, while Barcelona were missing Pique, Puyol, Iniesta and Ibrahimovic.

    There's no shame in losing to Barcelona. Just don't kid yourself that your loss was down to injury problems.

  • Comment number 51.

    3. At 3:14pm on 17 Dec 2010, Nick_Hove_Actually wrote:

    Also don't forget Arsenal was also the team no group winner wanted to get!! As you said which match is tougher. The Arsenal V Barca or the Spurs v AC match?
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The answer is quite simple, Arsenal have got a far tougher job.

    The mystique around Italian clubs has dwindled over the past few years, the fear of playing AC Milan or any other Seria A side is not there like it was in the nineties and early noughties.

    They have improved the squad from the past couple of years with the additions of Robinho and Imbrahimovic, and Thiago Silva is a good young centre half whose future looks promising, however there are several players in the team who are not at the peak of their powers anymore. Nesta, Zambrotta, Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Inzaghi, Ronaldinho, all great players but all the wrong side of thirty and not the force they once were.

    Barcelona on the other hand are at the peak of their powers. They are in fantastic form, have eight world cup winners, the best player in the world in Lionel Messi and can make great players look very poor, as proven by their destruction of Real Madrid.

    My Prediction:

    Spurs - 3 v Milan - 1 Milan - 2 V Spurs - 2 Spurs

    Spurs to win 5-3 on aggregate

    Arsenal - 1 v Barcelona - 2 Barcelona - 4 V Arsenal - 0

    Barca to win 6-1 on aggregate

    and just for the record I am a Man Utd fan

  • Comment number 52.

    For me its a win-win-win situation; lose to Barcelona, you've gone out to probably the best European team in recent times. However winning the tie, would mean we've played the best and would boost confidence in the teams ability. The third win with this draw, would be that Wenger bolsters the team in the January transfer window, with a great signing or two. As an earlier poster said, Arsenal were vastly depleted in personal at the Nou camp - hopefully we give them a better game this time round!

  • Comment number 53.

    Another great draw for Chelski.......before the draw I said that Chelsea would get F.C. Copenhagen and so it has come to pass.

    As for Arsenal, they will forever be in a 'maturing' mode, until Wenger faces reality and gets some muscle in midfield and a real forward to replace that pretender RvP.

  • Comment number 54.

    Why do Arsenal fans always go on about their best players not playing at the Nou Camp last season? Barcelona had 3 of their starting back 4 suspended (Alves, Puyol & Pique) and left players like Yaya Toure, Henry, Ibrahimovic, Maxwell and Iniesta on the bench. I respect Arsenal for the way they try to play football but just accept you were destroyed by a much better team and stop making excuses. Can't wait for this tie again.

  • Comment number 55.

    "United always get easy draws".

    United's opponents in the first knockout phase of the Champions League since 2000: 1999/2000 Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Deportivo La Coruna, Real Madrid, Porto, AC Milan, (2005/06 did not qualify), Lille, Lyon, Inter Milan, AC Milan, 2010/11 Marseille.

    If Real, Bayern or either Milan club has ever been an "easy draw", I guess that Colin Bell impersonator is correct.

  • Comment number 56.

    Phil, there you go again with the hubristic permutations often seen in the sports press in this country- Man United to beat Marseille, Chelsea to beat FC Copenhagen.

    I remember when it was said last season that Man United had an "easy" route to the final.......we all know what happened when they came up against Bayern Munich. It turned out the supposedly "easy" road to the final was not as easy as it looked. You would be naive to underestimate Marseille, Copenhagen or any other opposition in this competition. This is the Champions league. A league of Champions! Competition amongst the best clubs in Europe! There are no pushovers here Sir! While I can understand the patriotic sentiment in wishing English clubs progress, it would be simplistic to assume Man U and Chelsea would steamroll their opponents. Mind you, this season both Man U and Chelsea have been far from the strong teams we know them to be. In my opinion, Man U, Chelsea, and Spurs each have a 50:50 chance of progressing...nothing more. For Arsenal, it's more like 65:35....35% chance of progressing (on the strength of form shown this season).

  • Comment number 57.

    #43

    Codswallop! Evra over abidal perhaps, but the rest you can swing for! Mascherano doesnt get in the team, hes behind busquets btw.

  • Comment number 58.

    Arsenal & Spurs out. Man Utd & Chelsea through. Although with Spurs you may get a shock result. Not with Arsenal. No chance whatsoever against Barca who I think will win it again.

  • Comment number 59.

    #54

    Well said! Iniesta is better than any arsenal player, plus all those defenders missing. Doesnt matter to the gunners fans though. If they were scottish they would be celtic they are that blinkered

  • Comment number 60.

    56. At 4:16pm on 17 Dec 2010, omniblackspider wrote:
    Phil, there you go again with the hubristic permutations often seen in the sports press in this country- Man United to beat Marseille, Chelsea to beat FC Copenhagen.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    I understand the point, but really Chelsea should beat Copenhagen. Of course you can't account for injuries but I'd say Chelsea as a team have more than a 50% chance of beating Copenhagen over 2 legs.

    As for Man Utd, Marseille have good players including several French internationals (Valbuena, Madanda, Gignac and Remy) Utd old boy Heinze and Bruno Cheyrou's brother Benoit but really I think Valencia are a stronger team than Marseille and Utd handled them in the group stage playing at 70% of their capacity IMO.

  • Comment number 61.

    43. At 4:01pm on 17 Dec 2010, jack welsh wrote:
    #18

    Yes, there are players who would get into the Barca team. Vidic would, a fit Rooney, Evra over Abidal, perhaps Nani, perhaps Fletcher over Mascherano. Perheps Pep would fit Cesc in the starting 11. Maybe Nasri over Pedro. Maybe a fit and in form RVP over Villa...Villa hasn't exactly set the world alight this year.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I am a Man Utd fan and what you have said I completely disagree with.

    Firstly I rate Vidic very very highly, but Pique and Puyol have a fantastic understanding and play together for club and country, I dont think Guardiola would or should break them up.

    Secondly Fletcher has improved vastly over the past two or three years but he wouldn't get anywhere near the Barcelona team. Also Mascherano isn't first choice, Guardiola prefers to play Busquets as the holding midfielder especially in the big games.

    Thirdly Nani and Nasri are two more players who have improved greatly in the last year or so but Pedro has burst onto the scene. He looks lively and exciting everytime I see him, he can score goals (last season alone he got 23 in 52 appearances), create goals and is very consistent. A world cup winners medal as well and he is only 23. I dont quite think Nani or Nasri are on the same level.

    Fourthly when has Robin Van Persie shown that he is anywhere near as good as David Villa. I appreciate he has had a difficult time with injuries but David Villa is a natural finisher who can play up the middle or down the left flank, more similar to Thierry Henry. Villa has scored goals ever since he broke into the Sporting Gijon team back in 2001/02, his goals per game ratio since then is 1 goal every 1.8 games, not bad is it!!

    Lastly I will agree with the one sensible thing you said, Evra is better than Abidal.

  • Comment number 62.

    The only players from the prem league that would get into the barca starting 11 is evra and ashley cole.
    I seen someone say nasri ahead of pedro which is comical, obviously doesn't watch barca play very often. Messi gets all the praise but pedro provides so many goals assists and just general excellent play

  • Comment number 63.

    Barca are favourites. I feel Arsenal will have to approach the match with unconventional tactics.

    I would play with a defensive lineup with only Cesc and Chamakh as the attacking players (however, Arsenal probably don't have enough defensive, energetic players). The purpose of this is to contain Barcas early charge and hopefully frustrate and tire them.

    At the 70-75min mark, introduce the fast and attacking players (e.g. Arshavin, Walcott and Van Persie). This is when they will be most effective as Barca won't have the same intensity in their closing down as the start of the match.

    This strategy will be more effective at the Nou Camp, however Arsenal will need a decent result at the Emirates in order to deploy this strategy. I think they should play their natural game at the Emirates.

  • Comment number 64.

    If Chelsea or United went to the Nou Camp when Arsenal did last year I doubt they would even have scored and would have been just as humbled.

    The only British team capable of beating Barcelona is Arsenal. No other side has the capability of cre4ating chances against that side. United would have had no ambition and hid all day in their own box and just pump the ball up to Rooney (then lose as comfortably as they did in the final), Chelsea would have been ripped apart.

    Anyone says different are blinkered.

  • Comment number 65.

    I don't know if its a joke or just ignorance that people keeps on reminding as of the thrashing by barcelona last season.for sure i don't know any team that can face barcelona with roughly all player being second choice and the opponent being full strength.

  • Comment number 66.

    Betfair are taking odd's on what Arsenal's excuse will be this year, you can get surprisingly good odd's on "Injury's"

    So get betting everyone.

  • Comment number 67.

    As an Arsenal fan i have to agree that injuries didn't make a blind bit of difference to our chances last season Barcelona were and still are better in terms of quality, depth and defence.

    I also agree when you look at Barcelona without the ball they are determined to get it back and Arsenal could learn a thing or two about this.

    Agree with some of the other negatives as well, until Wenger realises that you need a balanced squad with muscle and win at all costs mentality.

    Nasri and Arshavin are good players but you need the yaya toures, mascheranos, patirck vieras as well and Wenger doesn't seem to get this.

    Inter beat them playing defensive football and Wenger needs to get a plan b because plan a doesn't always work as we've found out for 5 long seasons yet he is still plodding on playing teams like Barca the same way he plays against stoke!!

    Horses for courses, Mourinho understands this which is why he wins so many trophies.

  • Comment number 68.

    64. At 4:33pm on 17 Dec 2010, Gassing Pirate wrote:
    If Chelsea or United went to the Nou Camp when Arsenal did last year I doubt they would even have scored and would have been just as humbled.

    The only British team capable of beating Barcelona is Arsenal. No other side has the capability of cre4ating chances against that side. United would have had no ambition and hid all day in their own box and just pump the ball up to Rooney (then lose as comfortably as they did in the final), Chelsea would have been ripped apart.

    Anyone says different are blinkered.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I think you are the blinkered one my friend. Dont forget you were humbled at home to West Brom a month or so ago!!

  • Comment number 69.

    Chelsea and Man united have both been soundly beaten by Barcelona in recent times, how hypocritical of those clubs fans to even have a pop at Arsenal losing. No panic, we should play our natural game, and take them apart with what the premiership excels with - pace.

  • Comment number 70.

    I would like to Arsenal beat Barca but it would be sad if Arsenal beats Barca only to be knocked out by Chelsea, Man Utd or even Roma or Valencia. I would only want to beat Barca if Arsenal can go all the way and win the final. Otherwise, I would prefer if Barca wins and then I would have a chance to see them again playing hopefully in the quarterfinals, semi-finals, and finals. I love good football and Barca plays very good football. That's why I don't like Mourinho's teams, they are similar to Sam Allardice's teams - winning playing ugly. I don't subscribe to the philosophy that its the winning that matters. I enjoy good football. I enjoy watching great players, watching great attacking football and watching great football skills.

  • Comment number 71.

    64. sorry disagree, depending on what Chelsea turn up they would be more of challenge as the game would be less open and chelsea would be more physical. Utd yes i agree would get men behind the ball and rely on Rooney or a set piece, Spurs would get slaughtered and Arsenal would be no different to last season

  • Comment number 72.

    Arsenal this time will be the team to win the CL, and for sure we will beat Barcelona, Although Barcelona is the best team now but we have now Cesc,Van persie and Varmelen.

  • Comment number 73.

    43. At 4:01pm on 17 Dec 2010, jack welsh wrote:
    #18

    Yes, there are players who would get into the Barca team.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    Really, when you talk about the Barcelona team- you've got David Villa. The best striker in the world, arguably.

    You've got Lionel Messi. The best footballer and attacking forward in the world.

    You've got Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Only Sneijder or Fabregas have got a realistic claim to even becoming close to these two as the best creative midfielders in the world.

    I would say that only Van der Sar or Cech ahead of Valdes in goal, Vidic at the back ahead of Puyol or Pique, Evra or Ashley Cole ahead of Abidal and maybe Essien ahead of Busquets could make a claim to get in the Barca side.

  • Comment number 74.

    Ok so I'm still standing by my prediction that no English team will reach the final. So far Arsenal are as good as out with an in form Barca to deal with. If AC Milan plays their game, Tottenham's Cinderella story will soon be over. As usual we'll have to wait on Chelsea and Man U. since they got the easiest draws as usual. But I'm willing to bet that life won't be easy for Man U. at least against O. Marseille. Chelsea's game won't be a walk in the park either, since it's an unfamiliar opponent, and Chelsea's form has been terrible as of late, but they "should" have that game in the bag. So there you have it; Arsenal out, Tottenham out, Man U. through, and Chelsea through. Two down two more to go ;).

  • Comment number 75.

    #43 you're way off the mark if you think nasri or fletcher are good enough to replace any of the players in the Barcelona team. Both are good players and have improved vastly over recent times but neither would make it into the barcelona team right now. Vidic would provide competition, as would rooney, but i don;t think either of them would make it either. The only one you mention who would is Evra instead of Abidal.
    To be honest, i think most players in the EPL would find it hard to get a regular game at Barcelona. Which sort of highlights the fact that la Liga is the best league in the world, not the EPL. If Barcelona and Real Madrid perform to their obvious potential they will be the forces to beat in this competition, but that was the case last season too, and Inter and Bayern showed that with good tactics and outstanding performances that anything can happen.
    I think Chelsea and Man Utd will get through, Spurs have a chance but Milan look rejuvenated this season so that'll be an interesting tie. Arsenal have the smallest chance of all the EPL teams on paper, but it should be a decent game if they perform to their full potential.

  • Comment number 76.

    Re 64,

    it's nice to dig a Barcelona hole and hide yourselves. Everyone knows you'll be walked over and no one would blame you. But this has some distance from talking cheekily about Manchester United and Chelsea: these two clubs have monopolised the premiership title and the only way Arsenal to see the trophy is to google it and get a glance at a photograph.

    To believe you can beat one strong team, you need to show which other ones you've beaten on your home soil. So, what are Arsenal results against Man Utd and Chelsea in recent seasons?
    Because all I can think of is some catastrophic days for you lot and some entertaining for us. :)

    Good luck, by the way. You'll need it.

  • Comment number 77.

    70. At 4:37pm on 17 Dec 2010, Fair_Minded_Football_Analysis wrote:

    I don't subscribe to the philosophy that its the winning that matters. I enjoy good football. I enjoy watching great players, watching great attacking football and watching great football skills.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    What a load of rubbish. Of course its the winning that matters. Good football is the icing on the cake. You cant tell me you would rather your team lose 5-4 every week than win 1-0, absolute BS!!

  • Comment number 78.

    65. Have you even read the other comments or you did and are still blinkered to the fact that Barca had players missing too.
    There is no shame in losing to a great side ask fans at Real they should know

  • Comment number 79.

    #65

    I don't know if its a joke or just ignorance that people keeps on reminding as of the thrashing by barcelona last season.for sure i don't know any team that can face barcelona with roughly all player being second choice and the opponent being full strength.

    #########################################

    Alves, puyol, Pique from defence all missing, Yaya toure and ibra on the bench and no sign of iniesta. Thats 3 world cup winners, the best attacking full back in the world and a £60m striker missing. Not full stength or realy even close with 5 regualr starters out.

    Next

  • Comment number 80.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 81.

    I am sure Wenger is pleased he drew Barcelona. Not because he thinks he has a chance to beat them, but now he can revel in the comfort of once again not having to defend his team's failure in the CL.
    "It's Barcelona, of course they are the favourites, there is no shame in losing to them. Next year, we are a team for the future, we can win things, one day."

    Remember Arsene did say if he won nothing this year then his plan will have failed. And no, the Carling Cup doesn't count as you Gooners have been telling us all that for years.

  • Comment number 82.

    Barcelona are going to be just as apprehensive about the tie as are Arsenal. It will be decided on each others grounds. Its a super tie for the neutral to watch. Its opened up for Real Madrid, Chelsea and ManU who will all be fancing their chances.

  • Comment number 83.

    #69

    It doenst excel with pace. Your recycling a tagline. Barca are pacey, you will see the ball move around far quicker and with more accuracy than anywhere else probably ever. Thats pace, not launching it forward like stoke et all

  • Comment number 84.

    #72 I know there's a lot of parties at this time of year but go sleep it off, you embarrassing yourself.

  • Comment number 85.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 86.

    Arsenal have a chance of winning but only because of the old "anybody can beat anbody in cup game" reasoning as far as i am concerned.

    Let’s put this to bed right now – Barcelona are not just better than Arsenal, they are miles better then Arsenal. Skill levels, technique, movement, fluency, much more clinical in front of goal and desire, and perhaps just as importantly, Barcelona have the big game mentality and produce performances which is were Arsenal fall down!

    Arsenal are fine with their “British media revered” passing game against the weaker teams but when they play the big teams they just go to pot and can hardly string a 3 passes together. Barcelona on the other hand have outclassed Man Utd in the final, beaten Real Madrid on the last 5 outings with scores of 6-1 and 5-0. And pretty much battered Arsenal last season too.

    And please stop with this we had loads if injuries – Barca didn’t play Iniesta and had 3 of their back 4 missing for the 2nd leg

  • Comment number 87.

    It seems to me that the BBC pundits (especially Phil McNulty and the BBC columnist & Match of The Day bloke Alan Hansen) tend to show a great bias towards Liverpool. It also seems to me that Skysports is biased towards Manchester United. It seems like when Phil McNulty writes about Arsenal it always has a negative slant. IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE WHO FEELS THE SAME???????

  • Comment number 88.

    lmao @ 84!

  • Comment number 89.

    I am amazed at how many optimistic Arsenal fans there are out there. Yes get behind your team but also realise when your simply not quite good enough. What have you added from last year a couple of dodgy french centre backs and a moroccan striker with plastic hair! Oh and your talismanic captain wants to play for the opposing side.

    Come on give me a break, I cant stop laughing!!

  • Comment number 90.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 91.

    Must confess I have a very simple, and selfish reason for being delighted with this draw. The game at The Emirates last season was one of the finest I have ever seen in the flesh. Not just for that first 20 minutes from Barcelona, which was as good as anything you will see, but for the way Arsenal somehow clung on and fought back.

    When Barca went 2 up it looked like it could be anything, but it was a wonderful show of character from Arsenal, which they will need this time.

    When I said play Arsenal at their own game, I meant Barcelona would not come with a negative thought in their minds, intent on playing attacking football. They will not attempt to stifle of spoil.

    I well recall Guardiola almost recoiling in horror when he was asked why he didn't put up the shutters at 2-0 at The Emirates. It was almost an insult to him.

    I cannot pretend I make Arsenal anything other than huge underdogs, but anyone who loves football will relish seeing them have a try at overturning the odds.

    What about Chelsea, Spurs and Man Utd fans on your draw? Let me know your thoughts.

  • Comment number 92.

    #89 - I wish i had written that hahaha!!

  • Comment number 93.

    87. At 4:48pm on 17 Dec 2010, Fair_Minded_Football_Analysis wrote:

    It seems to me that the BBC pundits (especially Phil McNulty and the BBC columnist & Match of The Day bloke Alan Hansen) tend to show a great bias towards Liverpool. It also seems to me that Skysports is biased towards Manchester United. It seems like when Phil McNulty writes about Arsenal it always has a negative slant. IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE WHO FEELS THE SAME???????
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Of course Hansen is biased towards Liverpool he spent the majority of his playing career there, as for McNulty I think he gets some undeserved stick because when I write about Arsenal I always have a negative slant too.

    As for Sky Sports being biased towards Utd that is just complete garbage!! Andy Gray hates Utd, and ask any Utd fan, we all hate him too!!

  • Comment number 94.

    Arsenal can more than just beat barca. Samir Nasri is now a fantatic player, compared to last year, we should have Atleast a second or third choice defender playing rather than silvestre. Alex Son was injured last year and so was Arshavin and van Persie. Any team missing them players would suffer and yet we got a draw in the first leg.

    Oh and who remembers Theo Walcott ROASTING Maxwell for pace??

  • Comment number 95.

    94. At 4:57pm on 17 Dec 2010, Invincible_Iceman wrote:

    Arsenal can more than just beat barca. Samir Nasri is now a fantatic player, compared to last year, we should have Atleast a second or third choice defender playing rather than silvestre. Alex Son was injured last year and so was Arshavin and van Persie. Any team missing them players would suffer and yet we got a draw in the first leg.

    Oh and who remembers Theo Walcott ROASTING Maxwell for pace??
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    COME ON ARSENAL FANS THIS IS JUST GETTING BORING NOW!!

    YOU SHOULD HAVE GONE TO SPECSAVERS!!

  • Comment number 96.

    #89. Maybe Fabregas will have a blinder when he plays against Barca because they refused to put their hands in their pockets to buy him!!! They also couldn't pay their players over the summer and hand to take out another loan.

    on't forget that in a few years Barca will be down the list because of their mounting debts. They owe about 400 million don't own their stadium and will have problems with the financial fair play system coming in. Just like Real Madrid and also Chelsea who haven't done well since RA has stopped buying players the club can't afford.

    All I can say is I am pleased that yet again all four English clubs have made it through. We are also the only country to have 6 teams through in both CL and Europa.

  • Comment number 97.

    er..Mr Mcnulty, do you read the comments?? Most of us neutrals or unbiased Champ League team fans have commented on the rest, with most of us agreeing that Utd face a tough test

  • Comment number 98.

    On paper it looks really difficult, but nothing is impossible. Arsenal were top of the league even though they were missing Vermaelen, Fabregas and Van Persie for much of the season. With those those three back and firing there's a chance. Arsenal's problems are mostly psychological..they have to start believing they can beat the top teams - once they do anything can happen.

  • Comment number 99.

    @ #18

    Umm, are you joking? Yes, there is a player in Arsenal's side who would get into the Barcelona side. In fact, Barcelona tried to sign him this summer before and after the world cup, maybe you heard something of it? You might have heard of him, his name is Cesc Fabregas. Ring a bell?

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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