Barcelona vs Arsenal: Preview and Starting Eleven

March 8, 2011

Well, it’s been very hectic as we have moved from one tournament to another in the last 10 days with tonight our fourth game, in as many tournaments, against after-all-not-so-mighty-Barcelona. This fixture no doubt has been in the minds of every football fan and Gooner  after we beat them at the Emirates three weeks ago. Even our players will have had this in their minds in the past week.

So, what’s the fuss about a match which many believe we will lose and as a result be kicked out of Champions league. Well, the fuss is due to the fact that we beat them and some still believe we can do it again. For me, I don’t care what many believe because I believe in my team and if we play good football then there is no stopping us. Even Barcelona knows we can beat them. A win, loss or a draw, we can and we will qualify.

So, how can we then qualify for the next round? We know they will score goals. So we just have to restrict them from scoring plenty and make sure that we score as many as them or at the most one less. We have to ensure that the game stays within our reach. It’s easier said than done because we all know if Barcelona goes on a goal spree, this game will be over in no time. We just have to make certain that we don’t give them too much time and space with the ball and take our own chances upfront. How this can be achieved? By playing twice the times better than what we did at the Emirates, yes, only then it will be possible. It is difficult! Yes, but to beat the best we have to give our best, our whole team will have to give in a top performance defensively as well as offensively.

So, who to play then? There can be no doubts about the backline and keeper for this one. Szczesny, Koscielny, Djourou, Sagna and Clichy will surely all start.

Big decisions are to be made in the middle and upfront. Wenger’s tactics were spot on at the Emirates; I hope his tactics are spot on here as well. I will go with Diaby, Wilshere and Fabregas in the middle as they are the best possible options available. I hope Fabregas is hundred percent fit for this because losing him now would be a disaster. And please Arsene don’t consider Denilson to start this one.

Upfront, it’s even trickier. We received great injury boost yesterday with van Persie traveling with the squad. He has made a quick recovery from an injury that had him ruled out for atleast three weeks. Now, I don’t care how he did it, I am just glad he is back.  However, I still won’t start with him. According to Wenger, he will start only if he is hundred percent fit and I hope Wenger sticks to it. We cannot risk a recurrence of an injury with him with many important games to come. Bendtner and Chamakh on the other hand have been doing well. However, they won’t score goals out of nowhere. So, who should we play upfront? I think it will depend on how we tactically approach the game. For me, I will go with Chamakh for his good work rate and his defensive capabilities. Not because to be defensive but because we will need someone to defend as well as attack. Van Persie is an asset on the counter but so can Arshavin be if utilized in that role and that’s why I will start with Arshavin too. He will have to put in a lot of effort at both ends of the pitch though. Nasri to complete the starting eleven.

Bendtner has been playing well but I will keep him on the bench with Van Persie and bring them on later if the game is within our reach. Although, I won’t be surprised if either of Bendtner or Van Persie starts.

Probable starting lineup: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Koscielny, Clichy, Wilshere, Fabregas, Diaby, Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin

I guess there isn’t anything else to discuss. The bottom line is we have to keep the score line wthin our reach and then we can damage them with whatever chance we create or get. I have everything crossed for tonight and I am gunning for a qualification.

Have a great day Gooners and hopefully tonight will be a great night. Only a few hours left to kick off.  Before signing off, I will say again, no matter what the result, we will always be behind you Arsenal. Go Arsenal Go!!

p.s. I will like to add that if, and that is a big if, we don’t qualify despite playing well, it won’t be a disaster and I won’t be bothered much as there will still be plenty left to play for.


Arsene Wenger’s injury update and Van Persie’s inclusion in the squad

March 8, 2011

Van Persie and Fabregas were part of the Arsenal squad that travelled to Barcelona on Monday morning with Alex Song left behind.

Arsene Wenger, while speaking on Monday morning confirmed that Fabregas will travel with the squad with him being 90 percent fit as the manger added that his presence for the squad is vital with him being the captain and also the focal point of the attack.

While, Alex Song failed his test on Sunday and is ruled out, the manager confirmed that all the other players that were in the squad on Saturday are fit along with Wilshere, who also made a recovery from his injuries from Sunderland game.

Meanwhile, the surprise was of Robin Van Persie travelling with the squad, whose injury had him ruled out for at least three weeks.

Regarding Van Persie’s inclusion at the UEFA press-conference, the manager explained how he wasn’t fit enough to travel but added that he made a quick recovery in the last three days and that his test on Monday morning was very positive after which it was decided that he will be travelling with the squad.

However, Wenger made it clear that his inclusion will be decided on Tuesday morning and no gambles will be taken as he added that he will play only if he is hundred percent fit.

Arsene Wenger on Monday morning said:

“Fabregas will have a final test today. It is 90 per cent he will travel and be fit. It is vital for us because he is important in the transition between attacking and defending. He is also the leader of the team so we want him there. Alex Song is completely out. He had a test on Sunday morning and it was negative. Wilshere will be fit. Everybody else who played on Saturday should be available.”

Arsene Wenger, regarding Van Persie on Monday Evening, said:

“He is here as a player. He will have a possible test tomorrow. We are 19 here in the squad. Whether Van Persie will be included has not been decided yet. He has made quick progress in the last three days. When I spoke [with him] this [Monday] morning he was really unlikely to travel. [But] he wanted to have a go. We made a test and it was quite positive. We will see how he responds to that and I will make a decision tomorrow [Tuesday] morning. We will not take a gamble in a game of that importance. So he will have to be fit or not fit.

I am very bad at mind games. Whole truth is what I have given you here. We’ll see tomorrow morning. The medical team will assess him and I would like him to play. But I will only play him if he is 100 per cent fit. OK, I will consider 99.5.”

The 19-man squad that travelled is as follows which will be reduced to 18 after final decision on Van Persie’s inclusion on Tuesday:

Manuel Almunia, Wojciech Szczesny, Johan Djourou, Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Eboue, Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna, Sebastien Squillaci, Cesc Fabregas, Andrey Arshavin, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Samir Nasri, Abou Diaby, Denilson, Nicklas Bendtner, Marouane Chamakh, Robin van Persie