Champions League preview: Arsenal and Barca resume a one-sided rivalry
Can Arsene Wenger’s men finally beat the Spanish side? History suggests not
Arsenal and Barcelona resume their decade-long rivalry in the Champions League this week.
It’s been a one-sided tale.
It started in 2006 when Barcelona came from behind against 10 men to score two late goals and win 2-1 in the final in Paris. Arsenal haven’t reached the final since.
Barcelona won 6-3 over two legs in the 2010 quarter-finals, and 4-3 on aggregate in the last 16 in 2011.
There’s rarely a dull moment when these two entertaining and attack-minded teams meet, with those five match-ups averaging almost four goals a game. And this year could be no different considering the scintillating way Barca are playing.
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have scored a combined 91 goals this season, helping the Catalan team establish a club-record 32 matches without a loss heading to London.
No team has successfully defended the Champions League trophy but Barca are in prime shape to do so, even though coach Luis Enrique knows the potential of Arsenal heading into the first leg at Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.
“We are talking about a game that lasts 180 minutes,” Enrique said. “It will be complicated, because it’s a rival that can cause us problems.”
Arsenal have exited at the last-16 stage for the past five years and has never won the tournament.
Here’s a look at the other three matches this week:
There will be some familiar faces for Juventus and Bayern Munich when two giants of European football meet on Tuesday.
Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic scored 39 goals in 74 appearances for Bayern from 2012-2014, winning two Bundesliga titles and scoring in the Champions League final win against Borussia Dortmund in 2013. He resumed training Saturday following a month out injured.
It will be a return to Turin for Arturo Vidal and Kingsley Coman, who joined Bayern from Juventus last summer.
Bayern have won the team’s last three meetings but are without defenders Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez.
PSV EINDHOVEN-ATLETICO MADRID
PSV, the 1988 European champions, are in the Champions League knockout stage for the first time since 2007 and face 2014 runner-up Atletico Madrid. PSV top the Dutch league, while Atletico are second in La Liga.
PSV are doing everything they can to ensure veteran midfielder Andres Guardado is fit for Wednesday’s clash with Atletico Madrid. The Mexico star, one of PSV’s best players this season, has been sidelined since late January with a hamstring injury.
“I’m assuming he will be playing,” said coach Phillip Cocu, who is without suspended captain Luuk de Jong.
Fernando Torres had broken out of another long scoring slump – this one lasted four months – with goals in Atletico Madrid’s back-to-back wins in the Spanish league before their goalless draw on Sunday.
DYNAMO KIEV-MANCHESTER CITY
This is Man City’s third appearance in the knockout stage, and easily their best chance of reaching the quarter-finals. In the last two years, City have faced Barcelona and were convincingly beaten both times.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini was frustrated by having to face Chelsea in the FA Cup three days before playing Kiev in Ukraine, and rested key players to focus on the Champions League. In a congested fixture schedule, City may have one eye on a League Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
Dynamo’s appearance at this stage marks the first time the Ukrainian club has made it past the group stage for 16 years. Creative spark Andriy Yarmolenko is still recovering fitness after two months out with the leg injury he suffered against Maccabi Tel Aviv in the last match of the group stage.
Sanctions forcing the game to be played behind closed doors were lifted, following an appeal by Dynamo.