This is Arsene Wenger’s time to prove he can win the big one. After getting two goals late at the Emirates, the Gunners take a 2-1 advantage into the intimidating Nou Camp, where 100,000 Barca faithful will be screaming their heads off and Messi and the gang will be as motivated as ever. Unfortunately, Wenger will have to rely on some of his normal bench players to take him through to the next round, a tall task for the young Gunners.
Cesc Fabregas is 90% fit at this point and I can’t possibly see him missing the match, especially going against his boyhood club. Heck, the guy played with a broken leg for part of one leg last year. This will be “no problem” for the Spaniard. However, the wing play will miss the speedy Theo Walcott, whose pace has terrified the Barca back line with each match played. Dutch striker Robin Van Persie, who has been in scintillating form for the most part, will also be out of the contest, so Wenger will have to rely on the erratic Bendtner and/or the apparently exhausted Marouane Chamakh. Defensive midfielder Alex Song will also be out for the contest, so Jack Wilshere may slot into the ball-winner spot for the Gunners.
On the other side of the coin, Pep Guardiola will have to deal with injuries to two of his most important defensive pieces, club captain Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique. A makeshift defense will be employed, with Gabriel Milito and Eric Abidal expected to slot in. Both teams have not been in the greatest form of late, with Arsenal coming off a shocking Cup Final loss to Birmingham City and a stale 0-0 draw against Sunderland. Barca come in on a four game win streak but haven’t really showed the same terrific ball movement and flair, relying on some brief moments of magic to lead them to victory. Luckily, these moments can come at literally any moment for the Catalan club, thanks to the man in the Messi Jersey.
Arsene Wenger has already said the Gunners plan to go out and attack the game, not a bad plan as it’s very difficult to absorb Barca’s attacking prowess for 90 minutes without conceding a goal. I think the key in the game will be if Arsenal’s back line of (likely) Johan Djourou and Laurent Koscielny can contain Messi, Villa, and Pedro long enough to squeeze out a result. Confidence is low in North London and I don’t think it’s possible not to concede against Barca at Camp Nou. Especially with Koscielny in charge of the duties.
Prediction: Barcelona win 3-1 over Arsenal.
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