Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side face Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Arsenal know exactly what to expect from Barcelona ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg at the Nou Camp - and Luis Enrique’s side have been in particularly good form since their 2-0 win at the Emirates.
Their only problem is the suspension of Gerard Pique, who will miss the second leg having picked up a late booking lat the Emirates. Jeremy Mathieu will continue at centre-back, having played alongside Pique in the weekend win over Getafe because of Javier Mascherano’s suspension.
A tall, left-footed player who was once a rampaging left-back or left-winger in his Valencia days, Mathieu has adjusted well to his centre-back role, and is ahead of former Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen in the pecking order.
Otherwise, Enrique is likely to name the same XI which started at the Emirates.
The first leg demonstrated how Barcelona excel on the counter-attack, and these days they concentrate on forming triangles down the touchlines, between the full-backs, outside midfielders and wingers. In the first leg, their most frequent passing combination saw Daniel Alves playing the ball into Lionel Messi.
Against Getafe they were particularly dangerous down the left, with Jordi Alba overlapping to combine with Andres Iniesta and Neymar. It’s possible, however, the full-backs will be more cautious considering Barcelona’s two-goal headstart.
Arsenal must be wary of letting Busquets play. Mesut Ozil has a big responsibility for leading Arsenal’s attackers, but his defensive performance will be particularly crucial against the most composed holding midfielder in Europe.
Busquets is the man who puts Barcelona in charge and controls the tempo of the game, and his short, conservative passing could prove extremely frustrating as Arsenal attempt a comeback.
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