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UEFA Champions League

  • 16 February 2011
  • • 19:45
  • • Emirates Stadium, London
  • Referee: N. Rizzoli
  • • Attendance: 59927

Arsenal - Barcelona Preview: Bacary Sagna suspended but Samir Nasri fit as Gunners aim to avenge last season’s Champions League exit

Arsenal - Barcelona Preview: Bacary Sagna suspended but Samir Nasri fit as Gunners aim to avenge last season’s Champions League exit



Samir Nasri is expected to return for the Gunners having recovered from a hamstring problem, although manager Arsene Wenger has yet to confirm if he will begin the game or be forced to settle for a place on the bench.

Abou Diaby is a doubt with a calf strain, as is Denilson who has a hamstring problem, and both players could join Thomas Vermaelen and Lukasz Fabianksi on the injured list.

Bacary Sagna is suspended after his red card against Partizan Belgrade in the final group game, which means Emmanuel Eboue should come in at right-back to replace the Frenchman.

Possible starting XI: Szczesny; Eboue, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy; Song, Wilshere; Walcott, Fabregas, Arshavin; Van Persie.


The Spanish champions have few injury concerns and should recall Sergio Busquets, Eric Abidal and Pedro Rodríguez who were all rested for the weekend draw with Sporting Gijon.

However, the Catalans will still be without Carles Puyol who is struggling with a knee injury picked up in January and Jeffren who has a muscle tear.

Possible starting XI: Valdes; Dani Alves, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Villa, Messi, Pedro.

Familiar foes renew rivalry

Arsenal welcome Barcelona to the Emirates for the second consecutive season hoping to avenge last season’s 6-3 aggregate defeat that sent them tumbling out of the Champions League.

Yet they face a daunting task with manager Arsene Wenger admitting the Catalans have improved from last season. However, having won all three group games at home, scoring 14 goals in the process, the Gunners should not lack confidence.

Certainly the north Londoners are in better shape this time around with striker Robin van Persie fit and firing, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott growing in maturity, Cesc Fabregas still resisting Barcelona's overtures and the influential Samir Nasri their only real injury worry.

However, there are still signs of vulnerability at Arsenal, particularly at the back, as seen so recently at Newcastle when they threw away a four goal lead, which they will need to eradicate if they are to oust the side their skipper, Fabregas, calls “the best team in the world”.

A sporting chance?

Barcelona, meanwhile, travel to London on the back of a draw to Sporting Gijon, a shock result when you consider the Spanish champions had won their last 16 games on the bounce and one that prompted Pep Guardiola to cancel training on Sunday.

Yet there is more good news for Arsenal fans as the statistics show that Barcelona have been far from invincible on their travels in Europe this season, winning just one of their three group games and indeed only three of their last nine Champions League away matches.

Of course that is ignoring the fact that Barcelona have swept past practically everything placed in front of them on the domestic front, including hammering Real Madrid 5-0 and scoring 71 goals already in La Liga to lead the table by five points.

The Catalans have also never lost to Arsenal in the Champions League in five attempts, winning three and drawing two, and on current form will be strong favourites to maintain that unbeaten record and once again progress at the expense of the Gunners.

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