Barca will host Arsenal this week in the return leg of the Champions League as the Spaniards continue their quest to retain their crown as European champions. Barcelona appeared headed to an easy 2-0 victory before Arsenal mounted a comeback to salvage a home draw.
The two sides will suffer consequences as a result of the incidents from the entertaining first-leg with Cesc Fabregas suffering from an injury which ended his season while Barca will miss their captain Carles Puyol for the return match due to the red-card after he conceded the late penalty which Fabregas duly converted. The loss of Fabregas cannot be underestimated because he is the beating heart of the club, the undisputed leader and the orchestrator of most of the Arsenal attacks. The Spaniard, who ironically started his career in Barca’s youth ranks and moved to Arsenal without playing a single game for the first-time, has scored 15 goals in the Premiership and assisted on 13 others. No one is close to the midfielder in either ranking with Andrei Arshavin the closest having scored 9 goals in the league.
No doubt the statistics show the loss of Fabregas is a massive one for the Gunners and there is a possibility Arshavin might miss as well leaving Arsenal with few weapons to cause Barca any major concerns. The hosts will miss Puyol and Gerard Pique but their best strategy will be to rely on their offensive weapons to keep Arsenal at bay and locked in a more defensive stance. Barca’s choice will be to attack and this should force the Gunners to focus on their defensive duties.
With Lionel Messi leading the charge and having looked ordinary for once in recent weeks when the two sides played in London, it would be hard to bet against the star player performing some magical moves and even tormenting the Arsenal back-line. Messi is fortunate to have midfield duo Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta who can supply some incisive and quality passing as well as maintain the ball when required.
Arsenal will also be without William Gallas and the performance of their goalkeeper Manuel Almunia this season has been inconsistent at best. On the other side Barca have announced their Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored both goals for the visitors in the first-leg, will miss the mid-week clash against Arsenal.
Considering injuries and suspensions as well as the quality and depth of the two sides, it would be fair to say Barca have the edge and this was outlined with the favourable 2-2 draw in London. Barca will likely advance unless some decisive incidents and officiating decisions will go Arsenal’s way during the match.