Arsenal vs Barcelona: Preview, live telecast, team news, prediction, and betting odds
Arsenal will look to put a halt to the machine that is Barcelona at North London in their second round Champions League clash at The Emirates stadium tonight. Luis Enrique’s men are in the midst of a 32-game unbeaten run in all competitions. It’s logically a ‘David vs Goliath’ clash with Arsenal being marked in the David corner.
It’s not usual to tag the Gunners as underdogs going into any tie, but against Barcelona, everyone probably is. Arsenal, who rested most of their stars against Hull at the weekend for the FA Cup will hope that their fresher legs will help them overcome a side that last tasted defeat on 3rd October last year.
Barcelona cruised through the group stages, winning four of their six allotted game and came out as only one of two team that remained undefeated through the first phase. Arsenal meanwhile had to toil hard and only secured their place on the final matchday with a hard fought, yet convincing win over Olympiakos.
The Spanish giants go into the game as overwhelming favourites with many predicting the Catalans to put the tie to rest in the first leg itself.
Kick-Off and Live Telecast
Channel: Ten Action, Ten HD
Kick-Off: Wednesday, 24th February – 01:15 IST
Venue: Emirates Stadium, London
Arsene Wenger announced that "Wilshere, Cazorla, Arteta and Gabriel are all out" of Tuesdays' first leg meeting with Barcelona at the Emirates in the press conference leading to the game. Most of Arsenal’s first team players should be well rested for this game as Wenger made nine changes to the squad which took on Hull City over the weekend.
Barcelona meanwhile come into the game with Dani Alves’ availability being the only question mark hanging over Luis Enrique’s head. However, Alex Vidal looks ready and more than capable to fill the void for the Brazilian.
Arsenal come into the game on the back of some mixed results. While the Gunners gunned down Premier League leaders Leicester at home in the last league encounter, they were unable to dispatch a stubborn Hull side from the Championship in their F.A. Cup encounter over the weekend.
The Gunners, however, should be reasonably confident heading into the clash, having lost only one of their last eleven games with six ticks to the win column. But going into the game against arguably the best side in World football at the moment, all the form book flies out of the window.
Last 5 games (All competitions): D-W-W-D-W (Most Recent: Arsenal 0-0 Hull City)
Barcelona have taken off exactly where they left off last season. After a historic treble last season, the reigning Spanish, European and World Champions are on a run that will be forever remembered in the history books of football. The Blaugaranes seem to be at the Nadir of all footballing powers, currently enjoying an unbeaten run of 32 games having demolished their previous record of 28 unbeaten games under Pep Guardiola.
The goals have been flowing for Barcelona as they have scored an astounding 23 goals in their last seven games in all competitions. In fact, each of their front three have scored more goals than Arsenal put in total. However, their hard-fought win over Las Palmas at the weekend might suggest that Barcelona won’t have it easy coming into the game.
Last 5 games (All competitions): W-W-W-D-W (Most Recent: Las Palmas 1-2 Barcelona)
2- Barcelona are only two behind Real Madrid’s Spanish record of 34 games unbeaten in the 1988-89 season.
6- Number of goals Arsenal have scored in their last 7 games. In the same period, Barcelona have netted 23 times.
9- The number of times Arsenal and Barcelona have met in the Champions League. The Gunner have only one victory to their name, a 2-1 triumph over the Catalans back in February 2011
11 - Arsenal’s highest scorers in the Champions League, Theo Walcott and Thomas Rosicky have scored 11 each for the Gunners in the competition. They have some way to go to catch Barcelona’s top scorer Lionel Messi, who has 80 to his name.
16 - Number of games Barcelona have played since returning from Spain’s mini winter break. Arsenal are a lot fresher, having played only ten games during the same stretch.
Mesut Ozil vs Sergio Busquets
While Barcelona go into the game as massive favourites, Arsenal at home in front of sixty odd thousand fans will be no pushovers. The attention will obviously be on the triumvirate of Messi, Neymar and Suarez, a deadly a trio as football has ever seen.
But Arsenal still have a chance of upsetting the applecart. They stand a chance if they can deny Barcelona possession for long periods of time and how much they can get out of Mesut Ozil and both the things are complementary. If the Spaniards enjoy long spells of the ball as most are expecting them to, they will win as most are expecting as well.
The only way Arsenal can refuse them is if they can win the battle in the middle of the pitch and for that they need more than just winning the ball back. It will take the Gunners to conjure all their effort to spray the ball about and for that they need their German maestro on the ball. If Ozil is able to shake of Sergio Busquets presence and bring about the likes of Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez into play, then and only then can the Gunner faithful can dream of eking something out from this game.
While Arsenal certainly have some quality stars at their disposal, Barcelona are a level above anyone else at the moment. The Spaniards are ridiculously loaded on all fronts and its tough to really see them slipping at the biggest of stages.
Predicted Score: Arsenal 1-3 Barcelona
Betting Odds (bet365)
Arsenal - 4/1
Draw - 3/1
Barcelona – 8/11