It's a huge night of Champions League football as Arsenal host the mighty Barcelona.
Arsenal are the favourites for the Premier League but they are massive outsiders against a Barcelona side that is playing some breathtaking stuff right now. The Gunners are fairly fortunate to even be here after losing three of their first four matches in the group stage but if they can make a first quarter-final since 2010 it will be a remarkable achievement.
Arsenal have lost at this stage in five consecutive seasons and they’ve actually lost the last four Last 16 first legs they’ve played by more than one goal. That is despite the last three being at home and while they’ve gone W3-D1-L0 in those second legs the damage was already done. There have been seven European meetings between these teams since 2000 and Arsenal have scored in all of them. However, Barcelona have invariably scored more as the Gunners have gone W1-D2-L4 and six of the seven matches have had at least three goals.
Arsenal have had seven knockout ties since 2008 against teams ranked above them in our gradings and they’ve progressed in none of them as they’ve gone W3-D3-L8 across both legs. Wenger’s team has often been accused of a naivety in the biggest matches and that can be seen by seven of those eight defeats being by more than one goal. Domestically they’ve done well against their other title rivals this season but that might in part be down to those teams underperforming and the Gunners general form hasn’t been particularly exceptional, with a goalless FA Cup game against a weakened Championship side just the latest example.
Barcelona lost the second leg of their semi-final last season but having won the first leg 3-0 and been ahead at half-time in the second leg it didn’t really matter, and that was their only defeat in their last 17 matches in Europe’s premier event as they’ve won 14 times. Moreover, they’ve won 12 of 16 legs in the Last 16 since 2007/08. They should certainly be confident on current form and in their last 15 away matches they’ve conceded just seven goals while remaining unbeaten. Given the weapons they possess in attack – Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have 91 goals between them for Barcelona this season – that is a worrying statistic for Arsenal.
It’s hard to see Arsenal stopping a vastly superior Barca side and we can find some decent value in the scorer markets. Luis Suarez has 38 goals in his last 30 appearances, scored in last year’s Champions League final and netted in four of his five group matches this term. Having scored 12 times in his last seven games and with two previous goals at the Emirates he looks a bargain to score at 2.0.
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