A mouth-watering encounter awaits between the Gunners and Barca.
Arsenal’s punishment for failing to finish top of their Champions League group is a difficult encounter against Barcelona, which is a fixture to excite neutrals, even if it is a tie that must already have the Gunners seriously considering their longevity in the competition.
The Londoners haven’t had much success against the Catalans in the recent past, with the most recent clashes between the pair ending heavily in favor of la Blaugrana. Arsene Wenger’s men were fortunate to earn a 2-2 draw in the first leg at the Emirates Stadium, but at Camp Nou they were blown away by a margin of four to one, despite Nicklas Bendtner opening the scoring in favor of the Premier League club.
Wenger remains optimistic approaching Wednesday’s clash, believing that his side approach the fixture in a healthy state following their 2-0 weekend win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“We are different because we are in better form going into this game than we were last year and in a better shape physically,” the Frenchman argued, according to the club’s official website. “Going into this game last year we had some players who were not available, some who were not 100 per cent going into the game. I believe we are more mature as well.
“Having said that, I concede as well that Barcelona are even stronger than last year. But I think we can give them a very interesting test.”
The Gunners believe they have learned lessons from last season’s defeat, but applying themselves successfully on Wednesday will nevertheless remain a huge challenge.
Barcelona made a rare slip at the weekend, when their record breaking run of consecutive victories came to a halt against Sporting de Gijon at El Molinon. After falling behind in the first half, la Blaugrana struggled to haul themselves back into the match, and it took until the 80th minute for David Villa to strike the leveling goal.
“Now we have to recover to play in London,” Guardiola said after the match, looking ahead to a testing European affair. “The fault is not with the team; when you are at this club you know you will have to play every three days. In sport there are always things to overcome.
“We may lose this league, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, but we will make sure that we fight until the end.”
Barca are presently favorites to scoop the treble after a remarkable campaign to date. Over the course of 23 Primera Division fixtures, only a meager seven points have been spilled, and while their form is not quite as remarkable in Europe, particularly on the road, the Camp Nou outfit are still regarded as the benchmark of quality in the world game.
After losing to Inter in last season’s semi-final, Pep Guardiola’s men return to center stage in Europe hungry to achieve more success. Not only did they beat Arsenal in last season’s quarter-finals, they scored a memorable win over the Gunners in the 2006 final, and it is those emotions that the Catalans want to experience come late May.
Samir Nasri has been named in the Arsenal squad to travel to Spain, while Tomas Rosicky is another struggling with a knock.
Thomas Vermaelen and Lukasz Fabianski are injured, while Bacary Sagna is suspended.
Carles Puyol has been ruled out of this encounter, and Jeffren is the other visiting player who will be sidelined.
EA Sports have run a special simulation of the long-awaited encounter, which you can watch below. Sit back, relax, press play, and see if your own prediction agrees with EA Sports'!
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