Arsenal play Catalan giants Barcelona on Wednesday night in what can only be described as one of the biggest games of the season. Barca, who could only manage a 1-1 draw against Sporting Gijon at the weekend, will be confident after dominating the two legs during last year’s Champions League clashes.
However, Arsene Wenger’s side were missing key players in those games with the likes of Robin van Persie, Andrey Arshavin and Alex Song playing minimal if no part in either game. Injuries forced Wenger to play Mikael Silvestre in defence at the Nou Camp where he faced the unstoppable Lionel Messi, but admittedly things could have been different.
Nicklas Bendtner and Jack Wilshere have both said that Arsenal have what it takes to beat Pep Guardiola’s men, while the world’s football pundits make Barcelona favourites to win over both legs.
Gooner Talk caught up with ‘Shekhu’ from one of the biggest Barca-related websites on the Internet, totalBarca, to discuss Wednesday’s match and much, much more. Check it out below.
How do you think your season has gone so far?
It has been a dream run for the club this season. It won’t be an exaggeration if we say that this team is defining a new era in football. A team with home-grown players, hitting five goals past other teams at will [*cough* Real Madrid *cough*]. The intensity at which the team plays – both attacking and defending – on and off the ball – is unbelievable. Everything is just perfect. Having said that, it should be noted that a lot of hard work, risk and commitment has gone down in making this team.
Skipper Carlos Puyol will be missing Wednesday’s game, do you feel that he’ll be a big miss in the centre of defence?
Well that is obvious, El Capitan will be missed in the game. He is a true champion, never gives up an inch. Apart from his defending he will be missed as a leader! I hope he comes back for the second leg. However, I expect Abidal to take up CB spot. To be honest, he has been our best defender of the season so far.
Where do you think the game can be won/lost for Barcelona?
The ball, simple. Both teams like to keep possession and always show eagerness to have the ball and attack. Chances will come for both sides, it will be a game of attack not the kind of game which other English teams have played against Barca. The team which can keep the ball more, will create more chances.
Who – other than stating the obvious – do you think Barcelona’s danger men will be?
It’s a tough choice but as you have asked someone other than stating the obvious ie. ‘Xaviniesta’ or Messi. I would like to point out Sergio Busquets. He has developed into an excellent defensive midfielder. His positioning and anticipation is second to none. It’s like he always seems to know where the ball is going next. His role will be very important in keeping possession.
Who have you got your eye on in Arsenal’s team?
The board has got an eye on Cesc [Just kidding!]. As in the previous question I did not state any obvious choice player. In this question too, I would point out van Persie. He’s got pace, lethal finish and could be very difficult to contain on the break.
You’re not going to get away without talking about Cesc Fabregas! What do you make of Xavi’s latest comments saying that “he has to end up” at Barcelona, and do you think you’ll make another bid to sign him in the summer?
Ah, I expected this question. Yes, the board will bid for him but for how much, I don’t know. And honestly I don’t see value in this transfer; both financially and sporting-wise. Barca already has a top-notch midfield and any addition to it will have to sit on the bench. Of course, there can be rotation but in important matches like this one, or Clasico’s, one of these three Xavi, Iniesta or Cesc will have to sit on the bench. It will be a travesty to spend that much money as it is being talked about on someone who may not be automatically be on the starting line-up! If at all Barca wants to buy Cesc I would rather wait for 2013 or 2014.
And finally, what’s your prediction for the match?
I’d expect a 1-2 away win for Barcelona but will be happy with a draw with one or two goals.
If you’re lucky enough to be attending Wednesday’s Champions League clash, make sure you check out Le Grove’s campaign to get ‘Hands off Cesc Fabregas’ sung at Emirates Stadium before, during and after the game.