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Round of 16
At 19:45
Donbas Arena
-4 ° C
Referee: Howard Webb (England)
Home match
Away game score
3: 2


Arsenal Vs. Barcelona, 2011: Champions League Round Of Sixteen Clash Continues As Arsenal Try To Hold 2-1 Lead
Mar 7, 2011 - Arsenal travel to Spain looking to hold onto their 2-1 lead from the first leg of their Champions League round of sixteen clash against FC Barcelona, but it won't be easy for the London side to overcome arguably the best team in football. Although Inter Milan shut up shop at the Nou Camp in their epic semifinal battle with the Catalans last year, even they couldn't manage to hold the Spanish side scoreless, eventually losing 1-0 on the day but winning 3-1 on aggregate. A 1-0 loss would see Arsenal eliminated on away goals, and they're nowhere near the mobile defensive fortress that was Inter under Jose Mourinho, so they'll almost certainly be forced to come at Barcelona on their own turf - a recipe for either a mauling or an extremely entertaining match.

With the surprise inclusion of striker Robin van Persie in Arsene Wenger's travelling squad, they may well be able to avoid the former. Barcelona are, in coach Pep Guardiola's words, 'a terrible team without the ball,' and they're going to have to do without captain Carlos Puyol and fellow centre back Gerard Pique. Although the Catalans will still boast a dizzying array of talent up front, in defence they look ripe for picking - ersatz centre half Sergio Busquets and Eric Abidal do not a formidable partnership make. In scoring two second half goals in the first leg at the Emirates, Arsenal have demonstrated their ability to rip through Barcelona's back line.

The question, however, is whether they can avoid a repeat of last year's humiliation, where they held their opposition to a 2-2 draw in London before getting massacred 4-1 by Lionel Messi and company (but mostly Messi) in Spain. With Alex Song out with a knee injury, it's unclear how Arsene Wenger will set up his midfield. He'll need a holding player to complement the exuberant talent of Cesc Fabregas and the hard work of Jack Wilshere while keeping both Andres Iniesta and Messi at bay. It's a tricky task for anybody - certainly it was far too much for Song to handle in the first leg - and any weakness in the midfield will be exploited ruthlessly by the Spainish champions.

Bacary Sagna will return at right-back for Arsenal, but most of the Gunners' problems at full back will come where Dani Alves attacks Gael Clichy on their left. Two weeks ago Alves had a relatively poor game and his runs forwards left the defence ludicrously exposed, but if the Brazilian is his usual self in this match he could give the Arsenal back line nightmares. David Villa and Xavi Hernandez will probably give anyone nightmares no matter what sort of mood they're in - Barcelona will simply have Xavi conduct the attack while their forwards look to drag the defenders out of shape to exploit the gaps. It's not a happy situation for a team to come up against.

Barcelona haven't looked brilliant lately, however, and their defence is a major worry. Although the home side should still be favoured to advance here, you can't rule Arsenal out. If they can nick an early goal, or even hold Barcelona out for the first half, things will get very interesting indeed.


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