By Giuseppe Muro
Barcelona are favourites to win the Champions League and for good reason.
The Catalans are unbeaten in La Liga since early September, cruised through the Group Stages unbeaten and provided the final trio listed for the FIFA Ballon d’Or award.
So how can Arsenal get the better of Pep Guardiola’s side over two legs? We spoke to Guillem Balague of Diario AS and Sky Sports to get a Spanish perspective on Wednesday’s game.
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
Certainly, they are one of those teams that define an era and also revolutionise the game. You’ve got centre backs that play the ball better than most midfielders, you’ve got full backs who are two of the six attackers, you’ve got two central midfield players that are 5 ft 8”, you’ve got three attackers who are some of the best defenders in the team and you’ve got a goalkeeper that touches the ball more with his feet than with his hands. You have to be talking about a revolution of football.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Of course [they are beatable]. The thing with this Barcelona team is that if they touch one or two things, as they did against Sporting Gijon at the weekend, the team is not the same. The perfect team doesn’t exist. Barcelona still work really hard but at this particular time there are ways to beat Barcelona. In one game you can do it but over two games it is really really difficult.
[If Arsenal are to beat Barcelona] they have to be a little bit more speculative than they were in the first leg [last season]. There is no need to attack Barcelona, you have to be a bit more aggressive and get a little bit more on top of them. If you can, you have to defend high up [the pitch] because that’s where they build their football. You have to know exactly where you attack, you have to attack down the left flank where there is a lot of space left by Dani Alves.
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
I had a chat with Xavi and I asked him what he thought about Arsenal and what he remembered from the first game. He was saying how Arsenal play football the way it should be played. What he was actually saying is, we hope you do attack us because that’s how we are going to kill you! He knows it will benefit Barcelona if Arsenal play like they normally do.
I’m afraid to say [that Barcelona have improved since last season] but then so have Arsenal. They have got David Villa now who works really hard with and without the ball. Pedro has maintained and improved his level and Lionel Messi is playing more centrally and scoring more than ever. Sergio Busquets is making fewer mistakes, he hardly made any but he is making even less. Eric Abidal has become a really good centre back and Victor Valdes is improving his form as well.
MAN OF THE MOMENT
You don’t have to defend Messi, you have to defend Barcelona. But obviously he is the differential factor and is the one who, if he was absent, they would struggle against a defensive side. But you don’t defend him, you defend your position. Everytime Messi had the ball against Sporting Gijon at the weekend he had one player on him and one player waiting for him. So that is one way of stopping him.