The round of 16 of the Champions League has pitted Arsenal against the current champions Barcelona. The Catalans are unbeaten since the 3rd of October in all competitions, a run lasting games heading into their fixture with Arsenal. The Gunners themselves are enjoying a great domestic campaign, currently two points off the top with twelve matches to play. The clash comes as one between two teams with similar philosophies, both playing with a desire to play attractive football. It is all set to be one of the most entertaining matches of this round, as Barcelona’s famous MSN set up to take on Ozil and Alexis.
Arsenal have failed to get past the round of 16 for the last 5 years, and the last time they did make it to the quarter finals, it was Barcelona who knocked them out 2010. Here we take a look at the last five encounters between these two sides.
2005/06, Champions League Final, Stade De France
Arsenal came into this match hoping to secure their first ever triumph in the premier footballing competition in Europe, while Barcelona looked to win it for the second time only, with their only prior win coming in 1992. The match was set to be a classic, with both teams boasting of some great players. Barcelona had the inimitable Ronaldinho at the peak of his playing powers along with Samuel Eto’o, Deco and Giuly among others while Arsenal came into the match with the Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and a young Cesc Fabregas having a breakthrough year.
The match started off and hit an early talking point as eighteen minutes in Arsenal ‘keeper Jens Lehmann received marching orders for bringing down Eto’o just outside the box, even though Ludovic Giuly scored as the ball broke to him. But the referee decided to rule out the goal and send the German off. In the process, Jens Lehmann made a record of having gone an entire Champions League campaign without conceding a single goal. This was a commendable effort as he had faced Real Madrid and Juventus over two legs each and warded off Villareal’s Riquelme from the penalty spot in the semi final.
But the game went on with Arsenal at the disadvantage and Manuel Almunia on for Robert Pires. Sol Campbell shocked onlookers as he gave Arsenal the lead in the first half with a fine header from a Thierry Henry free kick. As Barcelona looked for a way back, the Gunners showed resoluteness and almost extended their advantage twice but Victor Valdes denied Henry and Ljungberg. An hour into the match, Henrik Larsson came in for Barcelona and was soon joined by Belletti as well and both these substitutions proved to be vital for Barcelona. With fifteen minutes remaining on the clock, Larsson received the ball from fellow substitute Iniesta and passed it on to Samue Eto’o who calmly slotted the ball home past Almunia. Within four minutes, Barcelona completed their comeback with Larsson again playing creator, as he set up Juliano Belletti for the winner. What could have been a glorious end of an era for an Arsenal side consisting of the likes of Henry, Pires, Ljungberg and Bergkamp, turned out to be the beginning of an era for Barcelona, with Puyol and Iniesta winning their first Champions League medals and Xavi watching from the bench. Lionel Messi was deemed unfit for the clash, but the little Argentine forward had already started attracting attention on the global stage.
2009/10 Champions League Quarter Final, 1st Leg, Emirates Stadium
Clashing for the first time since that fateful Champions League Final in 2006, this match also turned out to be an epic of sorts. The match also marked Thierry Henry’s first match back at Arsenal since he left for Barcelona. The match kicked off and it was Barcelona who dominated. Ibrahimovic was at fault initially for squandering a number of oppurtunities, with Almunia making some crucial saves and Arsene Wenger must have been relieved to go into the break on level terms.
But the second half started in disastrous fashion for the team from London. Ibrahimovic found himself in behind the Arsenal back four and Manuel Almunia rushed out to close him down, but the Swede showed spectacular calm as he chipped the Spaniard to give Barca the advantage. Bendtner had a chance to equalise for Arsenal but it was Ibrahimovic again who struck for Barcelona on the hour mark. Collecting a pass from Xavi, he struck a high effort into the Arsenal net and had effectively killed the tie, or so Pep Guardiola must have thought. Theo Walcott was introduced and his pace immediately started causing problems. The English winger picked up the ball from Nicklas Bendtner and scored with an angled finish to give Arsenal a ray of hope. The comeback was completed with five minutes remaining as Barcelona skipper Carles Puyol brought down Cesc Fabregas in the box and gave away a penalty and saw his marching orders as well. Fabregas made no mistake from the spot and completed the remarkable fight back, although he injured himself in the process, ruling him out for the second leg at the Camp Nou.
2009/10 Champions League Quarter Final, 2nd Leg, Camp Nou
Arsenal might have overturned a two goal deficit at the Emirates and even took a shock lead at the Nou Camp, but there was nothing they could do as Lionel Messi ripped them apart with another masterclass that only he is capable of.
Theo Walcott who had troubled Barcelona with his pace in the first leg was again critical as his shot was parried by Valdes and Nicklas Bendtner scored from the rebound. But two minutes later, Barcelona were level and back in business as Lionel Messi scored a powerful drive from the edge of the area to give Barcelona the away goal advantage again. Fifteen minutes later, Messi slid in Abidal but his cross was cleared poorly only for Pedro to set up Messi again, who took a touch before scooping a finish past Almunia. And it only took him another five minutes to complete his hat-trick as Seydou Keita headed the ball on for him to race ahead of the Arsenal defence and score a majestic chip over the Arsenal goalkeeper. It was truly a master class as the Gunners looked well defeated and deflated. Messi finished the rout with a fourth goal, having been slipped in behind before taking on Eboue and shooting at Almunia before slotting it home from the rebound.
2010/11 Champions League Round of 16, 1st Leg, Emirates Stadium
Having been knocked out of the competition by Barcelona the previous year, Arsenal came into this match looking for some revenge. Barcelona on the other hand were playing some of the best football in the world, with Pep Guardiola’s “Tiki-Taka” philosophy in full flow.
As the game started it was Arsenal who created an early chance for their Dutch star van Persie, but his effort was blocked and then began a Barcelona onslaught. with Messi missing a couple of great chances. But the pressure paid off for the Catalans as Lionel Messi put David Villa in the clear and the Spanish striker cleanly and calmly slotted home. Szczesny managed to save from a Pedro shot and van Persie missed again on the other end as both sides looked for goals. Lionel Messi thought he had given the Barca another 2-0 advantage at the Emirates, but the referee blew for offside. As the teams headed into the tunnel, Arsenal were probably feeling the more fortunate team despite being behind.
The second half began with more Barcelona domination, but they failed to capitalise on their chances as Arsenal slowly began to come back into the game. Jack Wilshere, nineteen years of age at the time, played one of his best games for Arsenal as the young Englishman looked calm and composed against what was probably the best midfield in Europe. He along with Fabregas helped create the little chances that Arsenal could muster. And with twelve minutes remaining on the clock, Arsenal’s efforts to get back in the game paid off as Clichy chipped the ball into Robin van Persie’s path and the Dutchman fired into Valdes’ near post. The goal changed the momentum of the match and Arsenal suddenly believed they could win. Five minutes later, Wilshere and Fabregas exchanged quick passes deep in Arsenal’s half before the latter sent Samir Nasri free down the right flank. The Frenchman carried the ball into the box, before squaring it beautifully for the onrushing Andrei Arshavin who coolly slotted the ball past Valdes from a first time shot. It was a breathtaking move to earn Arsenal an excellent result.
2010/11 Champions League Round of 16, 2nd Leg, Camp Nou
Having won the first leg, Arsenal came into this match with more confidence than they did in the second leg of the fixture the previous year. But the game did not start too well for the Gunners as goalkeeper Szczesny picked up an injury and had to be substituted and Manuel Almunia once again found himself ‘keeping against the Catalans. Chances were a plenty for Barcelona as Messi, Pedro and Villa all came close before Adriano thumped the post. Then, just as half time approached, Cesc Fabregas gave the ball away on the edge of his own half, performing a cheeky backheel in a dangerous area and Iniesta set up Messi for a lovely goal. The Argentine took a touch to control the ball, before flicking it over Almunia and coolly slotting it home. Advantage Barcelona.
Chances looked hard to come by for Arsenal even as the second half started but they got a way back from an unlikely source. Robin van Persie whipped in a corner for Arsenal and Sergio Busquets somehow headed it into his own goal. The game was back on from an Arsenal perspective as they had now gone back in front on aggregate and also cancelled David Villa’s away goal. But the slight hope that the visitors had was taken away as Robin van Persie soon received his marching orders. The Dutchman was played in behind the Barca defence and he duly took a shot, but alas the whistle had blown for offside and the referee decided that it was an attempt at time wasting and brought out a yellow card – van Persie’s second of the night. Soon after, Iniesta played in his midfield partner Xavi and the ever so elegant midfielder tucked it away to level the scores on aggregate and away goals. But with Arsenal a man down, the momentum was strongly in Barca’s favour and they got their third when Koscielny bundled down Pedro in the Arsenal penalty area. Messi made no mistake from the spot as Barca went ahead on aggregate. Arsenal fought for a late goal and almost got it when Wilshere sent Bendtner through on goal, but Javier Mascherano made a late block to save Barca the blushes. Pep Guardiola’s boys won the tie in the end and went on to win the tournament as well as perhaps one of the most dominant sides in European Football.