By Coral Barry
Arsenal’s worst fears were realised on Monday morning when they drew Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League.
After managing to finish second in their group, the Gunners were desperate to avoid the Spanish side and their holy trinity of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
But Arsenal possess superstars of their own, have swept aside several big guns already this season and have matchwinners aplenty in their side.
Here are Football Insider’s five reasons Arsenal can beat Barcelona.
Gunners beat Bayern 2-0 in the group stage
After losing their opening two Champions League group matches to Dinamo Zagreb and Olympiakos, Arsenal produced a superb display at Emirates Stadium to beat Bayern Munich 2-0. They inflicted the German giants’ first defeat of the season to end a 10-game winning streak. The result showed that Arsene Wenger’s side are capable of a big performance against an A-list team. On the night Arsenal had just 38% of the possession but they were dogged and clinical, demonstrating all the qualities they will need to beat Barcelona.
Wenger has three world-class players in form
Mesut Ozil is the creative hub, Alexis Sanchez provides the cutting edge and Petr Cech is, well, Petr Cech. Wenger has a trio of elite footballers who would wallk into virtually any team in the world. Bar perhaps Barcelona. These three will be instrumental to how Arsenal fare over the two legs.
Barcelona are not unbeatable
Although two of their players will fight it out with Cristiano Ronaldo for this year’s Ballon d’Or, Barcelona are in fact not unbeatable. The defending La Liga Champions and current Champions League holders have suffered two defeats this season including an embarssing 4-1 loss to Celta Vigo. They drew their third successive game at the weekend after relinquishing a two goal lead in the final 13 minutes to Deportivo de La Coruna. Arsenal have evidence to believe that members of the world’s most glamorous team are human after all.
Wilshere will be fit and is admired by Barcelona
By the time the first tie is played in February, Arsenal should be boosted by the return of their midfield maestro Jack Wilshere. The 23-year-old’s career has been plagued by injury and he is yet to play this season, but his mooted comeback after the new year will be a worry for Barcelona. Wilshere has drawn praise from Barcelona legend Xavi, who in November insisted he is the future of English football. Xavi branded the midfielder as fantastically un-English in his style and remembers how the then teenager Wilshere was mesmeric during Arsenal’s 2-1 win in the first leg of the last 16 tie with Barcelona in 2011.
Gunners have magic to unlock Barcelona defence
Arsenal are a wonderful team to watch when firing on all cylinders. The Gunners possess skill, speed and the passing combinations to unhinge any team. Sure, the European champions are not just any team. But Sanchez, Ozil and company have the ability to create a chance or goal out of nothing. On the counter-attack there is almost no team in England better at this, as Aston Villa discovered when it took the Gunners just ten seconds to find the net on Sunday through Aaron Ramsey after stealing back possession. Twenty-four hours earlier, Barcelona conceded two late goals to throw away a win against Deportivo, proving their defence is susceptible to losing focus. Deportivo’s equalising goal game after a mistake from the usually rock-solid Sergio Busquets. Arsenal’s pace and width can stretch a sometimes brittle Barcelona defence.