The 2nd Leg of the prime-time CL quarter final battle will be at Nou Camp. With the 1st leg ending at 2-2, Barcelona will have the slightest of edges over Arsenal going into this one, thanks to the 2 away goals.
Almunia was tested and tested often in the first leg, and Ibra managed to get by him with 2 extremely good finishes. To his credit though , he did pull off a couple of good saves in the first half.
The defensive backfield will consist of Clichy, Sol, Vermaelan and Sagna. Sagna was wonderful in the first leg, and kept Messi fairly quiet, and much more of the same should be expected of him. Campbell is the weak link here, and it is his lack of speed that Barca will look to exploit by creating the mis-matches with Messi and Bojan running directly at him.
The midfield is extremely weakened for Arsenal without Cesc, who made the team tick. His role was vital in getting the 2 goals back , and his absence is going to create quite a void. How Arsenal choose to fill this void will be quite interesting, since they have no option but to go for goals. Will they choose Eboue or go with Rosicky , who possibly can provide them the creativity they’d need. Or will they play Nasri in a more withdrawn role in the middle ? It’s a headache that the professor needs to solve. Denilson and Diabi will probably retain their positions.
Up front , Bendtner has proven quite effective, and he , along with Theo (who I assume will get the start today), will be going for glory against Barca’s extremely suspect belly.
Barca have headaches of their own. Without Puyol, Pique and Toure, their defense is starting to look like an open invitation for a party. To make things worse, the players who are expected to cover will be Gaby Milito , Abidal and Alves. I shudder to think how they will cope up with the pace Theo and I’m sure Gaby baby would have had a few sleepless nights already.
The midfield might get a big boost with Iniesta possibly returning to the XI . Along with his partner in crime , the irresistable Xavi, Arsenal will have to contest against the 2-headed monster.
Just when Zlatan started silencing his critics a bit with his big match performance, he gets injured. I’d imagine Bojan, who had a good weekend domestically, taking his place alongside God.
What will Happen
With both teams having the tendency to go for glory, it is going to be a magnificent match. Both teams have relatively weaker line ups without some of their stars available, but it should be more even. Messi will be marked heavily, but if Iniesta makes it to the line-up, he along with Xavi will ask even more questions and find see acres of space where normal beings see only a crack. Arsenal need to find their Fabragas for the day, and it’s time for Nasri or Rosicky to step up to the plate. The talent and potential is there to exploit the Barca defense.
I would expect the possession to be more evenly split compared to the 1st leg , with Arsenal pressing for the crucial away goal. This would also leave gaps for Barca’s impeccable attack to exploit.
Finally, Barca wins this 2-1.