Arsenal v Barcelona Champions League preview and Live stream
It’s a big game for…
Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean has been outstanding for Arsenal since leaving the Camp Nou in July 2014, scoring 35 goals for the Gunners, and it is the first time he will face his former club, Barcelona. The 27-year-old has netted three times in the Champions League this season, despite only recently returning from a hamstring injury he suffered in November.
4: Barcelona have won four of their seven meetings with Arsenal, which have all come in the Champions League. The Catalans have only lost once to the Gunners – a 2-1 defeat when they last met at the Emirates in 2011.
Lionel Messi scored four goals against Arsenal in the 2009/10 Champions League campaign, as Barcelona progressed to the semi-finals.
Player to watch…
Luis Suarez: The former Liverpool striker returns to England for the second time since joining Barcelona on a rich run of form – having scored 15 goals in nine games in all competitions. With five goals in the Champions League to date, the Uruguayan has been the most prolific of his Barcelona team-mates. Suarez knows Arsenal well, from his time with Liverpool, and will look to capitalise on that in the first leg.
Barcelona 3 (Messi 2, Xavi) Arsenal 1 (Busquets OG), Champions League, March 2011
Arsenal 2 (van Persie, Arshavin) Barcelona 1 (Villa), Champions League, February 2011
Barcelona 4 (Messi 4) Arsenal 1 (Bendtner), Champions League, April 2010
Arsene Wenger believes former Arsenal trainee Benik Afobe strengthens Bournemouth’s chances of avoiding relegation in their debut Premier League season.
Arsenal travel to the south coast on Sunday to take on Eddie Howe’s side, who already boast victories over Manchester United and Chelsea this term and currently sit 15th in the leage, seven points clear of the drop zone.
Their cause has been bolstered by the acquisition of Afobe from Wolves during the January transfer window, with the 22-year-old striker repaying Howe’s faith with three goals in his four top-flight appearances for Bournemouth.
England Under-21 striker Afobe led something of a nomadic existence during his time on Arsenal’s books, moving on loan to six different clubs before Wolves completed a permanent transfer for him last January.
Speaking ahead of the game on Friday, Wenger explained: “He was very young, he had big competition in front of him with Robin van Persie and players like that, so I gave him authorisation to go somewhere and play, which he did.
“You educate people to influence their lives and give them success. When they do not manage to play for us, if they do it somewhere else we are of course very happy for them.
“Benik has done extremely well, even beyond the expectations of many people and that’s great, that’s down to him and congratulations to him.
“I think the best way to stop him being dangerous is for us to have the ball and dominate the game and being aware that Benik is quick, strong and has good movement in the box.
“We are used to facing these kind of strikers in the Premier League because in every single club there are top-quality strikers.
“That’s the same with Bournemouth. I’ve always said that they will avoid relegation since the start of the season when I saw them play. They have enough substance in their game to stay up.”
In contrast to Afobe, Arsenal have been shot-shy recently – failing to score in the last three of four winless Premier League matches to slip five points behind leaders Leicester City.
The uncertainty at the top of the table is matched at the wrong end, and Bournemouth boss Howe believes the traditional 40-point target to ensure safety may prove deceptive this season.
“Every weekend is pivotal,” Howe said. “Sunday represents a really good game for our football club, we’re competitive and try to win.
“We’re conscious of people setting 40 points but we haven’t set any targets. We’re working towards goals, but it’s very dangerous to set 40 points as it could be more this year.”
Howe will make a late call on winger Junior Stanislas (knee), while Arsenal are without Thomas Rosicky.
The veteran midfielder might have played his last game for the club, with a thigh injury set to keep him sidelined for three months and his contract expiring in June.
Danny Welbeck returned to action for Arsenal’s Under-21 side on Friday but will not be risked at the Vitality Stadium, where Bournemouth hope to avenge a 2-0 December defeat at Emirates Stadium.
Key Opta stats:
– Arsenal have won just one of their past six Premier League away games (W1 D3 L2).
– Arsene Wenger’s team have not gone five league matches without a win since August 2011.
– Bournemouth have dropped more points from winning positions than any other team in the top flight (14).
– Eddie Howe’s men have scored a season-high tally (eight) and proportion (28 per cent) of their goals in the opening 15 minutes of games.
– If Arsenal fail to score, they will equal their longest run in Premier League history without a goal – four matches, established in February 2009.
It’s judgement week for Arsenal in the Champions League. With the Gunners’ hopes hanging by a thread, Arsene Wenger’s men need a two-goal victory at Olympiakos to seal a last 16 spot despite losing their opening two group games. However, the Champions League hasn’t earned a reputation as the most dramatic and thrilling club competition without producing stunning comebacks. Here are 10 of the finest, including another English club who required a two-goal win over Olympiakos and ended up lifting the trophy…
Despite becoming the ‘Invincibles’ in the Premier League, the Gunners were far from impenetrable in Europe that season, losing two of their first three group games – including a 3-0 hiding from Inter at Highbury. But after Ashley Cole snatched a crucial 88th-minute winner in their fourth game against Dynamo Kyiv, Arsenal went on to annihilate Inter 5-1 at the San Siro in arguably their most formidable European display, led by the brilliance of two-goal Thierry Henry. Arsene Wenger’s men managed to hold their nerve and clinched a 2-0 home win over Lokomotiv Moscow to progress on 10 points as group winners, demonstrating the steely character that proved the bedrock of that great Gunners side.
Everyone has admitted that Arsenal is going through a bad spell in the League. In their last three games, Arsenal has dropped points against Tottenham, West Brom and Norwich amassing two points from a possible nine. Sunderland on the other hand, have picked up some good form since Sam Allardyce took over and they have won three of their last five games.
Arsenal Team News
Arsenal is heavily plagued with injuries and the club are without some key players but they would have to soldier on without them. Losing Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla are big blows to the club but in Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, the Gunners have able replacements.
Wenger has shared his thoughts on the present situation at the club,
“I believe first of all it’s always a disappointment to lose the players at an important moment of the season. But on the other hand, it’s a great challenge to take for the team and a great opportunity to show that we are ready for a fight and we can deal with it. We prepared ourselves to go through periods like that, and I’m convinced the players are ready.”
Laurent Koscielny and Theo Walcott will face fitness tests and they will probably play from the bench.
Arsenal Injury / Suspension News
Jack Wilshere (ankle), Tomas Rosicky (knee), Danny Welbeck (knee), Theo Walcott (doubtful – calf), Francis Coquelin (knee), Mikel Arteta (calf), Alexis Sanchez (hamstring), Santi Cazorla (knee)
Arsenal Predicted Lineup
Sunderland Team News
Sam Allardyce side would be looking to build on their win against Stoke and they will be expected to put up a defensive show against Arsenal. However, they will be without the services of their top striker, Jermaine Defoe.
Sunderland Injury / Suspension News
Sebastian Larsson (knee), Jack Rodwell (hamstring), Jermaine Defoe (hamstring)
Sunderland Predicted Lineup
Last Five Games: L D L W D
Last Result: Norwich 1 (Grabban 43′) – Arsenal 1 (Ozil 30′)
Leading Goalscorer: Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez (9)
Setting an intense tone early on will be the key to putting Bayern on the back foot and winning the game. We showed against Manchester United that if we attack with intensity and aggression we can overwhelm top sides.
With our pacey attacking players we will cause Bayern problems but don’t expect the Germans to just sit back and let us attack them. It’s a strange fixture. We have to win and they don’t. They will look to soak up our pressure and get us on the counter-attack and although they don’t have to win, they will want to send a message by getting a result at the Emirates.
They have shown this season that they are incredibly difficult to break down if you attack them, particularly Dortmund who started the game all guns blazing and were slaughtered 5-1. We will need to be careful to keep the balance of play and not throw too much into attacking early on and leaving us exposed to a goal. When our chances come we will need to take them and if we can take the lead, we have a good chance of hitting them again on the counter.
More than anything it will be a night where our players will have to give everything to chase the ball down and not let Bayern control the game.
A solid defensive display
The Gunners defence will have a huge challenge on their hands tonight. Being realistic, Bayern are one of favourites to lift the Champions League trophy this season and are on a 9 game winning run in the Bundesliga. They are a dangerous team, not only with their talented individuals but with their form as a collective outfit.
Our defence will have to be at their best to deal with the threat of Lewandowski and Muller, who pose huge threats up front, and to stop the pace from the wings from the likes of Costa, Lahm and Alaba who will try to feed them.
Peter Cech will also be crucial tonight. His experience in the Champions League to win these big games will calm the back line in the knowledge that there is a rock behind them.
If the defence performs together as a unit to lock out Bayern’s stars by stifling their creativite players and isolating their forwards, it will give us a platform to win the game.
Win the midfield possession battle
Winning the midfield possession battle will be key to stopping the flow of their play, and nullifying their threat.
Bayern love to dictate play and usually play with 3 midfielder’s in the shape of Thiago, Vidal and Alonso. They are all naturally defensive players but are hugely creative and excellent passers of the ball. Alonso’s passing ability is magical and is always a danger.
Thiago is a combative and classy player and a favourite of Pep. Vidal is more of a box to box player and will often push forward to support the forward players. They will look to keep Pep’s philosophy of possession based football and Cazorla and Coquelin will have their work cut out to match them on the night.
With the Gunners at home and the stakes high, if our midfield wins the battle in the middle, we have an excellent chance of creating chances for our forwards and winning the game. I have faith in them that they can compete at this level.