Champions League – Barcelona v Arsenal: Fans’ view
We asked fans of Barcelona and Arsenal to share their thoughts ahead of tonight’s Champions League quarter-final second leg at the Nou Camp.
THE BARCELONA VIEW – Alvaro Romeo, Bilbao
We should have been enjoying a relaxed second leg ahead of this weekend’s game against Real Madrid, but somehow we only drew 2-2 at the Emirates.
We have had some great performances and are on a good run domestically, so we are very confident of a win against Arsenal but the last 20 minutes in London showed you can never take anything for granted in football.
The terminally obsessive Pep Guardiola certainly is not relaxed, and having described the opening 15 minutes of the first leg as “once in a lifetime” he knows we are extremely unlikely to play so well again.
The gap between Barcelona and Real Madrid and the rest of La Liga is huge – there are 21 points between second and third place. Nevertheless, we have struggled at times to win games against the likes of Mallorca, Malaga and Getafe.
At times we have relied on Messi to win games for us. He has hardly had a rest for two months, and has already played more minutes this season than in any previous campaign. Clearly, his form and fitness are crucial.
The loss of centre-backs Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol is also a big blow – Rafa Marquez, Eric Abidal and Gabi Milito are good players but for various reasons none of them is at the top of their game. Guardiola brought in Dmytro Chygrynskiy as an understudy to Pique, whose distribution from the back is so important, but the Ukrainian is cup-tied.
Of course, Arsenal have problems of their own, particularly Cesc Fabregas‘s injury. Barca fans would love to have Cesc back at the club, but it is a relief he will not be playing this time. We are most worried about Theo Walcott, as he can hurt Barca with his tremendous pace. Despite his lack of vision at the time of crossing or shooting, he unbalances opponents, and Maxwell will have to watch his back.
I think it will be another open game but Barca will come out 4-2 winners on the night, 6-4 on aggregate.
THE ARSENAL VIEW – Chris Purdy, Winchmore Hill
For the home game, we had our first choice team apart from Robin van Persie – now we’re missing five and to be honest I’m not that hopeful.
As strange as it may sound Alex Song could be the biggest loss as there is no-one who can replace him. A few pundits say Abou Diaby could do that role just because he is physically similar to Patrick Vieira, but all Gooners know he is an attacking player.
Sol Campbell has been solid since he came back but we could get overwhelmed due to a lack of protection in front. I read that Sol is not certain to play – if Mikael Silvestre plays then I think it’s all over, we’ll probably be down the Ramblas by half-time.
Wenger has said that he is going to play Walcott and hopes he can stretch them on the big pitch. He could do the same on the other side with Emmanuel Eboue who is totally erratic but certainly quick and we do need a win.
That would allow Samir Nasri to play centrally and offer more support to Nicklas Bendtner. I got a text straight after the Porto game which said ‘sell him now’ – yep he scores a few but he also misses a bundle as well.
He might have to go with Eboue because Tomas Rosicky is 50-50, he’s a class act but never seems to stay fit. We definitely need Manuel Almunia to play like he did in the first leg, if we’re lucky he’ll see us into the semis and impress a Spanish scout so much they’ll put a big bid in during the summer.