Camp Nou, Barcelona
April 6, 2010
Down to bare bones, Arsenal are on the verge of playing the biggest game of their club history as far as the impact on important personnel inside the club is concerned. Without their influential club talisman, Cesc Fabregas and the little Russian maestro, Andrei Arshavin, the North London outfit travel to Camp Nou to unsettle arguably the best football team in the world. After a last gasp winner against Wolves in the league, the spirits of the players are quite high and would come much handy against the mighty Catalans.
Barcelona, on the other hand are without the services of their defensive duo Puyol and Pique, who are suspended after receiving red and yellow cards respectively in the first leg at The Emirates. Bojan and Messi were in great form as they dumped out Athletic Bilbao in the league over the weekend. Barcelona, who were simply explosive in the first leg at London, will have to replicate that particular performance if they want to defend their Champions League trophy.
Arsenal will heavily depend on the services and goal scoring form of Nikolas Bendtner and Samir Nasri as they try to do the improbable at Camp Nou. Theo Walcott will probably get a start as Wenger is not left with too many options in the midfield area. One of Rosicky and Eboue will patrol the left wing and provide enough defensive hold up to Gael Clichy. Abou Diaby and Denilson will accompany Nasri in the midfield in the absence of the rock-solid Cameroon international, Alex Song, who misses out with an injury.
Injury update: Alex Song misses out with a groin strain, which Wenger pointed out as a ‘Bad Surprise’ ahead of the big game. Andrei Arshavin is still to recover from the calf injury sustained against Barcelona in the first leg. Sol Campbell is a doubtful starter as his legs are mighty old and stressed out to play two games in four days. Gallas hasn’t recovered from the ankle injury which saw him limping out of the first leg.
Suspension update: Cesc Fabregas is suspended for this game, though the suspension is not of much significance as the Arsenal Captain is out for the season with a knee injury.
Squad Update: If Sol Campbell doesn’t start tomorrow, experienced head Mikael Sylvester will partner Vermaelen at the heart of the Arsenal defence. Wenger will have to make his selections from Rosicky, Theo, Eboue and Eduardo to provide backup attacking options alongside Bendtner.
Probable Line up:
Sagna Campbell Vermaelen Clichy
From Arsenal’s corner:
A win of any sort will take them through to the Semi-Final. Arsenal will sorely miss the creativity of Cesc and the defensive shield of Song. They will heavily rely on the young Frenchman Samir Nasri to fill in the captain’s boots while Denilson and Diaby will have to combine and erect a decent defensive cover in front of the Back Four.
The Catalans giants had an impressive outing in the first leg against Arsenal and will be looking to secure qualification to the next round of the Champions League. Pep Guardiola rested the key performers over the weekend and will be looking to build on the performance in London. With 2 away goals, his side go into this tie as the favorites.
Suspensions: Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol.
Injury Update: Andres Iniesta has resumed training and though he made the bench at the weekend, it is unlikely he will take part in the game. Zlatan Ibramovich suffered a slight tear in his calf muscle and is expected to be sidelined for ten days. Yaya Toure picked up a small niggle at the weekend though he is expected to be fit for the game against Arsenal. Jeffren Suarez is also expected to miss the game against Arsenal.
Alves Marquez Milito Abidal
From Barcelona’s Corner:
Pep Guardiola rested most of the starters over the weekend and has a relatively fresh squad to choose from. The absence of Pique and Puyol is a setback though Marquez and Milito are expected to take over the mantle from the Catalan duo. The return of Abidal is a definite boost for the team as he will be key in order to neutralize the threat of Theo Walcott. In the absence of Ibrahimovic, Bojan Krkic will be expected to shoulder the load upfront and Guardiola will be looking to the youngster to replicate his performance at the weekend. Barcelona will employ the same tactics as they did in London though one can expect to see a lot more movement up front with the inclusion of Krkic. Messi will be expected to once again play down the middle. The mid field holds the key again and with Arsenal missing the likes of Fabregas, Arshavin and Song, the job will be quite difficult for them. All in all this has all the makings of a thrilling encounter.