Arsenal v Barcelona: An epic night of football awaits

Had it not been for Nicklas Bendtner’s league-saving goal against Wolves on Saturday I would be feeling very differently about our chances against Barcelona than I do right now.

As it is that late goal has kept us in the league and made the Champions League something of a bonus in the grand scheme of things, providing the sort of confidence boost that can make obstacles such as the paucity of first-choice options feel more like a bump than a block in the road.

Make no mistake: Bendtner’s goal has given our players a chance that they may thought they were not going to get and the psychological implications of that could be massive.

Barcelona will be confident after scoring two away goals but disappointed that they couldn’t come away from London with a win after dominating the first half. They will be missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic through injury, both Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique through suspension while Andres Iniesta, Yaya Toure and Jeffren are all unlikely to start (according to Barcelona Football Blog).

While we knew we would have to do without Andrey Arshavin, William Gallas and Cesc Fabregas (and a host of other long-termers) after last week’s match, the bad news is that Tomas Rosicky and Sol Campbell have question marks over their involvement while Alex Song, crucially, is out after sustaining damage to his knee cartilage.

The quality in that list is scarily good and it means a number of fringe players have no choice but to step up and play the game of their lives if we are to pull off an unlikely win.

Manuel Almunia will captain the side from goals, protected by a back four containing Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy, who were both rested on the weekend in anticipation of this game, as well as Thomas Vermaelen and most likely a tired Campbell.

Samir Nasri has a huge part to play in tonight’s game as the direct replacement for Cesc as the team’s creative outlet. He will receive support from Abou Diaby, who struggled in the first leg and Denilson, who impressed after coming on with his neat passing and ability to maintain possession.

Meanwhile up front Bendtner will lead the line with support from any two of Theo Walcott, Emmanuel Eboue, Tomas Rosicky or Eduardo. Given that Rosicky is rated as 50:50, Eduardo looks out of form and Eboue was substituted you have to think the starting pair will be Walcott and Eboue.

It is virtually impossible to predict what will happen tonight there is no excuse for our players not to put in absolutely everything they’ve got into beating Barcelona. There is a full eight-day break between this match and the North London Derby against Spurs and that means there will be more than enough time for the players involved to be fresh for that game too.

It is interesting to consider that while we have eight days off before our next match, Barcelona have a massive game at The Bernabeu against Madrid on the weekend. As professional an outfit as Barcelona are, there’s no doubting that Pep Guardiola will have his eye on Madrid and that could certainly work in our favour.

What is for certain is that if our boys can pull off a winning result tonight then this game will go down in Arsenal folklore. An epic night of football awaits.

Thoughts?

Have your say on Arsenal v Barcelona by leaving a comment.

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50 Responses to “Arsenal v Barcelona: An epic night of football awaits”

  1. BrianBee
    April 6, 2010 at 6:19 pm #

    Why is Carlos Vela not in the squard? i thought he would be considering Arshavin is out!

  2. SCOPE KNIGHT
    April 6, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

    Funny history,
    Barca have never won british opposition in nou camp. walcot to come in as sub

  3. peter stoery
    April 6, 2010 at 6:42 pm #

    Walcott has been unfairly chastised throughout this season. Due to his spate of injury setbacks, yesterday was just his eighth Premier League start of the campaign. He excelled against Burnley but was anonymous at Birmingham, so consistency is a concern. He has though long moved on from a youthful approach of feeling his job is simply to run, regardless of the quality of his cross. Now he acknowledges his responsibilities. He grew increasingly frustrated against Wolves that his contribution wasn’t paying dividends, but crucially kept at it until the end. It was from Walcott’s run and knock-back that Sagna delivered the telling cross for Bendtner to secure the oh-so vital victory.

    Barcelona, meanwhile, found themselves in a familiar situation on Saturday night (and here, I don’t mean trouncing visiting opposition). At the Nou Camp, their defence holds such a remarkably high line that remarkably often this season opposing teams have been able to play a splitting pass to put a runner through, one on one, with Puyol and Pique or whoever is playing at the back giving desperate chase 15 yards behind. Malaga did it a few weeks back and scored. Athletic Bilbao did it on Saturday and scored, and it’s happened on numerous occasions before as well. So look out for the number of times Arsenal get the chance to do something similar on Tuesday. If this opportunity does materialise, there is no one in the team better suited to take full advantage than Theo Walcott.

    And it should materialise. Despite their two away goals in hand and the magnitude of the prize at stake, Barcelona are hardly a team to err on the side of caution, particularly at home. Expect Dani Alves and Eric Abidal to play their part masquerading as secondary wingers.

    With this in mind, Theo’s inclusion from the off could be vital to our success. The uneasiness of Abidal and Pique was almost palpable when he showcased his pace immediately upon being introduced in the first leg. Arsene is keeping his cards close to his chest with regards to his selection plans though, indicating after the Wolves game the benefits of having a potentially game-changing impact substitute available. If we are serious about winning tomorrow evening, Nasri and Bendtner have certainly made themselves un-droppable with their recent form.

    But it might well be Walcott who holds the key to semi-final qualification – and with it the chance him to finally put to bed any doubts about his abilities in the process.

  4. AnonymousGun
    April 6, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    Should have really brought Vela along..Left side could see Fran starting tho .. if TRos wasnt fit enough to play 90 minutes.

    But its the back lines that worries me >.<

  5. darragh
    April 6, 2010 at 7:22 pm #

    This is going to be close. My heart says Arsenal but my brain says Barca. I think we will really have to take it to Barca – we’ll have to stun them. An early goal is key. I don’t think we’ll be able to catch up in this game.

  6. voley_gun
    April 6, 2010 at 7:51 pm #

    Pretty hard to predict with Campbell on fatigue and Rosicky a 50:50 .I believe arsenal will susbtitue Eduardo and Eboue with Rosicky and Walcott to create the impact.
    Also if we want to win the game it should go 0-0 till 60 minutes.Because scoring a early goal will create a surge to attack wave after wave from Barca.After 60 minutes it will be a different history as they will be tired and it helps arsenal to counter attack and pose a scoreline of 2-0 .Eventuallly Barca scores a consolation goal to make it 2-1 at the end to see us through.

    Our performance depends on how good our midfield of Nasri,Diaby,Denilson does.Especially Diaby and Denilson .Because barca knows Nasri will be the only creative guy and don’t want him to have the ball for too long.

    I bet for a different Hat trick from an unexpected but capable guy.Eduardo for sure if he is able to get a goal and get back his confidence with it and also if he is played by arsene in the team.

    I have some feeling or intuition that Eduardo is going to get back to his best and thrash Barca if played.

  7. Hey Nonny Mouse
    April 6, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

    ’tis a shame because if we’d been –
    Almunia
    Sagna/ Gallas/ Verm/Clichy
    Nasri/Fabregas/Song/Rocky
    Van P/Arsha

    I honestly think we could win. As it is we’ll have to be-
    Al
    Sagna/Campbell/Verm/Clichy
    Walnut/Nasri/Denny/Diaby
    Bendtner/Rocky (we hope)

    Eboue as super sub – and we need a miracle.

    Chances are in the first minute Mr Messy will run straight down the middle and score! But there’s always hope… Expect a busy night for Almunia. At least he enjoys the spotlight. Imagine if Sol scored the winner? I would LITERALLY go through the roof!

  8. voley_gun
    April 6, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

    If this team wins over Barca then every team in Europe will fear Arsenal.No matter we have lost thousand times before.

  9. voley_gun
    April 6, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

    All the best Alumnia for a wonderful night.Hope you come up as hero again

  10. Rocking Guns
    April 6, 2010 at 8:11 pm #

    I think we should give up over winning against Barca:-
    1. We will be missing the likes of Cesc and Andrei
    2. The last minute goal from Nicklas Bendtnar showed that Arsenal are struggling to win without star players.
    3. Our main target is the Premier League, and the next game will be Spurs, we were struggling to score against Wolves was because of tiredness of the Barcelona game.

  11. voley_gun
    April 6, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    @RockingGuns- As we have enough rest after the game we have nothing to lose by giving a fight to Barca.Losing without a fight is shame for us.The team’s fighting spirit and hardwork will become nothing if they mentally start to lose it.

  12. frichie79
    April 6, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    For me, DENILSON holds the key. If we to have any possession in the game, he needs to put pressure off the ball and when he has it distribute it in the only way he knows how – Sideways. Back and forth, provide and outlet for the players around him and keep the ball moving and away from Barca.

    In the home leg, Diaby, Nasri, Arsh and even Cesc were caught in possession by the quick pressing game and we had no base to build from.

    Im really hoping for a big performance, but i really dont want us to go 1 nil, we need two goals to be safe.

  13. Andrew Weber
    April 6, 2010 at 9:26 pm #

    @ Rocking Guns – Give up? Are you insane? It’s level on aggregate and there’s a semi-final berth on the line.

  14. Arsesession
    April 6, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

    @ Frichie
    agree about Denilson, but also believe Almunia will have to give his ‘best ever’ performance FOR 90 MINUTES.

    In sports – anything is likely, while momentum and belief are unmeasured statistics.

    A good day to add to Arsenal lore!

  15. Prince Charles
    April 6, 2010 at 9:34 pm #

    ooh!!! wat a night await!!! I have mixture of feelings about tonight, both hopes and fears!!! i rest it to God!!! i am sure a gun can shoot even if some part of it is broken!!!!

  16. senior citizen
    April 6, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

    Our success will depend on our ability to posses the ball and that lies so much on the midfield. Diaby sh’d better be cautioned on the danger of holding a ball for long against a team like barca.
    We should have our confidence right from the beginning of the match.
    Good game guys.

  17. voley_gun
    April 6, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    About Eduardo in Wiki Page
    ——————————————–

    Eduardo performed best for Dinamo Zagreb in the Croatian championship, netting 18 goals in 18 matches until the winter break of the 2006–07 season, including three braces and a hat-trick, and adding another seven assists to his tally. In addition to this, he was the only player who appeared in all of the club’s 18 matches before the winter break, also being in the starting lineup in each of the 18 matches. In mid-November 2006, he scored two hat-tricks in two consecutive matches he played for Croatia and Dinamo Zagreb in a period of four days.

    In Dinamo’s 4–0 derby win over Zagreb on 12 May 2007, Eduardo scored his 30th and 31st league goals of the 2006–07 season and became the most successful Croatian league goalscorer of all time, breaking a 13-year-old record set by former Dinamo Zagreb striker Goran Vlaović with 29 goals scored for the club in the 1993–94 season. He finished the league season with 34 goals in 32 appearances. In the final league match of the season on 19 May 2007, he became the first player ever to score a hat-trick in the Eternal derby between Dinamo Zagreb and Hajduk Split, netting all three goals as Dinamo won the match 3–0.

    Arsene Comments on March 26th 2010
    ——————————————————
    http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/wenger-eduardo-nearly-back-to-his-best

    So it’s time we have a match winner and a surprise package available .All he needs is confidence to believe he can and Arsene should play him.

  18. delano
    April 6, 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    Guys am so puzzled vel was left out .Problem is his replacement Edwardo is so irritating. He has not scored a single goal for the last 3 months, he is slow and his body language and positioning are so embarrassing.Vela is strong , young, hard working and faster.I wonder what wenger was thinking about.I saw Edwardo running into defences on counter attacks instead of positioning himself to receive the ball.I just beginning to hate the lad unless he can do something magical tonight but should we be thumped the this should be his last season at Emirates.I feel sorry fo the lad but his form is unbearable.

  19. voley_gun
    April 6, 2010 at 10:15 pm #

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/a/arsenal/8603858.stm

    —————————————————————————

    Arsenal winger Theo Walcott has vowed to take the game to Barcelona when the teams meet in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final.
    ….
    ….
    ….
    ….

    But Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola played down the importance of Walcott’s contribution, instead picking out goalkeeper Manuel Almunia as Arsenal’s real hero.

    “Let’s be clear, Walcott was not the determining factor, the determining factor was Almunia, who saved 12,000 balls,” he said.

    Defender Maxwell struggled to deal with Walcott’s pace in the first leg and he is likely to be replaced by Eric Abidal for the game at the Nou Camp.

    Frenchman Abidal is undaunted by Walcott’s speed, saying: “It may be really good for him to run 100m in a little over 10 seconds, but the aim is to get to the goal.

    “We’ll wait there for him and we’ll see what he can do with the ball – let’s see if he can get past four defenders.”
    ————————————————————————–

    This clearly shows Guardiola and team is afraid of Walcott.Let us take this advantage to release other players and shut Barca off.

  20. arsene_al
    April 6, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

    Barcelona name 19 man-squad; Iniesta good to go

    Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Márquez, Milito, Fontàs, Abidal, Maxwell, Touré, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Jonathan, Keita, Jeffren, Bojan, Pedro, Henry and Messi.

    Andrés Iniesta has received medical clearance and will be among the 19 players in the Barça squad for the game with Arsenal. He was able to train normally at the Camp Nou today.

    http://www.fcbarcelona.cat/web/english/noticies/futbol/temporada09-10/04/05/n100405110270.html

  21. voley_gun
    April 6, 2010 at 10:30 pm #

    ————————————————————————–

    Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola says his side’s gameplan is to “keep the ball and play simple” to prevent Arsenal’s Theo Walcott from using his speed, as the teams meet in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

    ————————————————————————-

  22. voley_gun
    April 6, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    we already terrified them in the last encounter.Now it’s time that we play our game and dominate them .Let us show the quality of Arsenal to them .They have shown theirs in Emirates .TODAY THE SHOW IS OURS

  23. Kosi
    April 6, 2010 at 10:46 pm #

    I hope that our lads will fight against them and we have to deal with 90 heartattacking minutes.

  24. Steve-O
    April 6, 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    I think Walcott has to start and the captaincy tends to bring out the best in Almunia. Losing Song is a kick in the guts but Barca have lost a lot of fine players too. The back 4 has been very solid lately and breaking through the Arsenal defence will prove difficult for Barca.

    Thankfully Arsenal’s depth is better this year than in the previous 3 years and that’s the main reason why the club is still in contention for the big two trophies in early April. The other reason is the self belief and never say die attitiude that the team now has – hence all the extra time winners This team is well capable of moving into the semis and I predict another cliff hanger. I prey that Henry doesn’t knock in the winner – worst case scenario. C’mon Arsenal!

  25. SOBIN THE GOONER
    April 6, 2010 at 11:37 pm #

    First of all injury to song is a mssive blow for us.Denilson has to step up and do song’s duty .I don’t know why injury hurt only our players.Iam really frustrated.
    But we have to trust the available players .if we want to beat barca ,we have to be at our best.I believe in our players.
    COME ON GUNNERS
    IN ARSENE WE TRUST.

  26. frichie79
    April 6, 2010 at 11:43 pm #

    How come Barca named a 19man squad and Arsenal only named an 18 man squad…are we that far down to the bare bones :o))

    Would have thought there was a place for Vela, but I just had a vision of Merida coming off the bench and slamming it into the top corner

  27. GunnerBoss
    April 7, 2010 at 12:34 am #

    No SONG?
    Now, this is really gonna be crazy.
    Nice post…..
    I wanna celebrate after this match
    2-1 i say…

  28. MTY
    April 7, 2010 at 12:39 am #

    I can’t imagine a narrow loss.
    Either we will emerge with a shock win (2-1, 3-2 or something like that) or if they beat us they will do it in style & murder us

  29. Ianinja
    April 7, 2010 at 2:05 am #

    I say Barca will win it if Yaya plays if not it will be a draw which is advantage Barca either ways.

  30. billi
    April 7, 2010 at 5:35 am #

    we shouldn’t have annoyed Messi, oh my god ………. 😯

  31. eros
    April 7, 2010 at 5:47 am #

    What kind of game plan would leave the best player in the world, Messi, roaming at leisure to score at every opportunity given cheaply? Arsenal started so well and were fighting for every ball, which undermined Barca’s usual play – pity they couldn’t hold the advantage at least 15 min as I am sure we would have scored again, and possibly killed the game. As it is now, all we can hope for is not to be humiliated.

  32. voley_gun
    April 7, 2010 at 6:03 am #

    common arsenal throw all that you have to Barca.They are switching to defensive mode.Two more goals and barca down.Someone send me two rockets to the goal

    Song is the answer for Messi.

  33. voley_gun
    April 7, 2010 at 6:04 am #

    They have only Messi who can score.Show them everyone of you can score.I still have lot of hope in our team.Never say die.Put a goal and see barca succumb to the pressure

  34. voley_gun
    April 7, 2010 at 6:11 am #

    if we can score 2 goals in less than 20 minutes in first half.Why not today.We can come on arsenal

  35. darragh
    April 7, 2010 at 6:13 am #

    Rosicky is having a shocker. Diaby not much better. Nasri hasn’t looked sharp since he got heavily tackled in the first half.

  36. voley_gun
    April 7, 2010 at 6:15 am #

    Fire up arsenal guns .Its time to show the world what you are.I am still awake even at 1.44am IST to see arsenal get through

  37. voley_gun
    April 7, 2010 at 6:17 am #

    put on the pressure .Barca going to break after 80 mins.

  38. voley_gun
    April 7, 2010 at 6:18 am #

    Eduardo -Please give me the hat trick.You can change everything today

  39. voley_gun
    April 7, 2010 at 6:33 am #

    Everything finished for Arsenal.Barca 4 – 1 Arsenal.

    Brave display lads. I am proud of our team.It’s great to watch and support such a team.

  40. voley_gun
    April 7, 2010 at 6:37 am #

    You people fought like a brave soldier without armour and without weapon but still with the guts to fight. I am proud to say i am arsenal fan.

  41. flyin dutchman
    April 7, 2010 at 6:47 am #

    4-1 how embrassing,why was silvestre playin?,absolute shit,it okay 2 lose 2-0,but 2 be play out everywhere is horrible n b beaten 4-1 is worst considering what effect this wil have on team 4 epl

  42. flyin dutchman
    April 7, 2010 at 6:54 am #

    Defending non-existent,504versus 238 passes,nothing worth talkin bout, lucky goals kept the team in.

  43. eros
    April 7, 2010 at 6:56 am #

    Let’s be honest. We were truly beaten by the best team in the world, but our lads fought like men in a lion’s den – with never a hope in the world. The truth is you cannot hope to win any silver with a group of players who are more likely to be injured than to play a few games in a row. Is this really just an unfortunate injury jinx, or are our medicos missing something? Let’s now put this dream behind us and concentrate on this weekend’s PL game – hopefully some of our casualties can be put together in time!

  44. flyin dutchman
    April 7, 2010 at 7:00 am #

    Now da injuries re startin 2 bite wenger,stop this shit bout team stil developin,they had 5 yrs 2 develop n stil we have huge defeats n players leavin elsewhere

  45. flyin dutchman
    April 7, 2010 at 7:06 am #

    Wenger u got only ur self 2 blame,but da fans wil pay da price since u don’t care what we think

  46. darragh
    April 7, 2010 at 7:09 am #

    Dutchman – get some perspective. Injuries have severely hampered our season – many players who obviously need a rest are forced to play week in week out due to injuries to other key personnel. Wenger cannot be blamed for something so variable. Even saying that, Barcelona are just an absolutely brilliant team – we were incredibly unlucky to draw them at this stage of the CL.

  47. TOM
    April 7, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    Denilson is a joke,without song i thought messi would destroy arsenal and if denilson is still around next season i see no hope for us. arsenal need a big clearout and maybe wenger should try spending some money.

  48. dave m
    April 7, 2010 at 7:32 am #

    I was going to write a massive message about the match but I’m too pissed off. Go Barca.

  49. theicehammer
    April 7, 2010 at 7:57 pm #

    Ice here, its time to start all over again. As i said a few days earlier, who will wenger purchase in the summer.

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