Tomorrow night will see Arsenal and Barcelona face each one another yet again. Last time Arsenal didn’t give the best showing of themselves, where Barcelona hit the ground running. This year Arsenal seem stronger and a little more decisive, but also this year Barça look even more formidable. Messi looks an even better player and the whole team seems to have clicked into yet another gear. Last Saturday saw them slip up somewhat as they drew against Sporting Gijon, losing their winning streak which was up to 16 at the team, a spanish league record. But Sporting Gijon didnt playing Barcelona at their game, instead they fought tooth and nail, and had the pitch on their side too. Arsenal are not Sporting Gijon, and could well pay the price. Where the rest of the football world will watch, what will hopefully be a fantastic match, Arsenal fans may fear they will watch a humiliation like last year. Nasri is going to be back in the squad to face Barcelona tomorrow, but it isn’t clear whether he will feature. One highlight for Arsenal is that Robin van Persie is on form and staying fit and injury free so Arsenal’s problems won’t be attacking, but defending. At the best of times Arsenal still look like they could concede, but when you are up against Messi, Villa, Pedro who combined have score 62 goals this season, in La Liga and the Champions League, defending is going to be a major key to winning. Not just one player needs to play well, the whole team will have to be on top form,because if they do, they might be able to match Barcelona at home, but away at the Nou Camp Arsenal no matter how much they are up for it, may not stand a chance.
The last two times Arsenal have faced Barcelona they havent won, but they have never had the best of times, or a fully fit squad.
In the Champions league final in 2006 Arsenal were down to 10 men after Lehmann was sent off on the 18th minutes for bringing down Eto’o, becoming the first player to be sent off in a Champions league final. Arsenal took the lead in that game when Sol Campbell headed in a free-kick on the 35th minute. Arsenal couldn’t hold out, and in the end tiredness kicked in and Barcelona got the goal they needed when Eto’o scored on the 76th minute, and then substitute Belletti scored on the 81st minute. Arsenal were unable to overturn that, and though happy to be in their first Champions League final it is remembered with a bitter taste.
They met again last season in the Quarter-Final, But without Robin van Persie as he was injured, and Fabregas played the first leg but was injured for the second leg. Barcelona were also missing a key player for them with Andres Iniesta out injured.
The first leg was at the Emirates and finished 2-2, but it was Barcelona who struck first. From the kick-off it was clear what Barcelona intentions were as they attacked and attacked hard looking like the home team. Ibrahimovich scored first on the 46th and then again on the 59th minute. Arsenal fought back with a goal from Theo Walcott on the 69th min. and then on the 85th minute a penalty from Fabregas, who coming back from injury then went off injured.
The second leg was a much more one-sided affair with Barcelona running out winners 4-1 at the Nou Camp. Messi who didn’t have the best game in the first leg more than made up for it as he single-handedly demolished Arsenal scoring all four goals. Arsenal took the lead after 18 minutes with Nicklas Bentdner grabbing the goal, but that lead only lasted 3 minutes as Messi equalised on the 21st, then gave Barcelona the lead on the 37th minute and then on the 42nd minute he got his hat-trick and put the tie past Arsenal. Messi grabbed his fourth on the 88th minute rounding up the game and ending Arsenal’s humiliation.
This time round could well be a much more exciting, open affair, or Arsenal could be humiliated again with Messi, Pedro and Villa showing just what they are capable of. It will certainly be an interesting and enjoyable match for all to watch.