Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Arsenal vs Barcelona - a preview

The game at the Emirates tomorrow night epitomises the term ‘mouth watering’. It will see possibly the greatest club side in history against the most attractive English side around. Last season we were treated to 180 minutes of utterly spell binding football that left everyone who watched open mouthed. There will be no defensive tactics employed – this will simply be a matter of who is the best attacking side.

For me it really is no contest; Barcelona sit at the top of La Liga and are currently the best side in the world. Their side boasts all 3 of the final Ballon d’Or nominees, the best striker in the world and one of the best up and coming coaches in world football. The style of football the Catalans play makes everyone envious and of the many imitations around Arsenal are the closest.

The game at the Emirates last season was the definition of a game of 2 halves. The first half hour was one of the best periods of football in a game I have witnessed in my entire life and the biggest irony of it all was that the much maligned Manuel Almunia kept Arsenal in the game (it could have been ten by half time without him). A rare tactical master stroke from Wenger then saw Arsenal score one and then a 2nd after the introduction of Walcott; Arsenal could even have won the game at the end which simply did not seem possible after 30 minutes.

This season’s encounter should see Barcelona advance to the quarter finals but Arsenal are such underdogs that I really believe anything is possible. There is always a worry for me when teams are such overwhelming favourites and the team from north London are capable of shocking the entire world. Having said this not one player in the Arsenal squad would get into the Barcelona team although Fabregas and Nasri would certainly come into contention but in reality their counterparts are just better players.

We should see plenty of goals on Wednesday night as neither side would say they are defensively sound. The loss of Puyol for the first leg could prove crucial as Abidal is certainly suspect and Arsenal should look to isolate him at every opportunity. The problem is how you stop Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro, Xavi and Villa from playing it round you. In truth I just cannot see how Arsenal can win over 2 legs; they may win tomorrow night but I think it will be a question of how many Barcelona score in the Camp Nou.

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