1-0 Lionel Messi (45+)
1-1 Sergio Busquets (53- own goal)
2-1 Xavi Hernandez (69)
3-1 Lionel Messi (71- penalty kick)
A Lionel Messi-inspired FC Barcelona pushed through to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals with a dramatic 3-1 victory that was tense to the last.Messi put the home side in front; Sergio Busquets’ own goal swung the tie in Arsenal FC’s favor before the 56th-minute departure of Robin van Persie to a red card restored Barcelona’s ascendancy. Goals from Xavi Hernández and Messi, from the penalty spot, confirmed it and, with a 4-3 aggregate triumph, the Spanish titleholders’ place in next Friday’s draw for the last eight.
“Someone who called on this play yellow card, on the stadium packed by 95 000 people, must never played football” – said frustrated by officiating Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
Should referee Massimo Busacca be eliminated from Champions League together with Arsenal? Unlikely, but he made few “mistakes” somehow majority of them against The Gunners.
Barca has fantastic team and is strong enough to beat Arsenal without help from the refs. Calling second yellow and automatic red on van Persie, who had all the rights not to hear the whistle; it was just too much by Mr. Busacca. Yes, Arsenal is eliminated for this year edition of UEFA Champions League, but proved to the world that they are world-class team, and belongs to elite.
Josep Guardiola, Barcelona coach
“We played a fantastic game against 11 players and also when they were reduced to ten. We prevented them from stringing more than three passes together and created lots of chances ourselves. We had a look again at the first leg and decided what we could do in this game. It is their philosophy to play but we didn’t allow them to do that.
The stadium looked terrific tonight and our supporters were magnificent; they helped us a lot. You can highlight the goals scored by [Lionel] Messi or the passes of [Andrés] Iniesta but you also need to look at players like [Javier] Mascherano who cut out opposition passes.
We are so happy with our performance and I think we deserve to be in the quarter-finals – over the two legs we were better than them.”
Arsène Wenger, Arsenal coach
“We lost against a good team. In the first half we resisted the pressure and there was room to qualify tonight. We were beaten by a terrific side – the best in Europe. We are out, but when you play against Barcelona you know it will be difficult.
I am still convinced that in the second half we could have done a lot at 1-1 if it had stayed 11 against 11. Once we were down to ten men it was very difficult. We had a very difficult first half where we were completely dominated. Barcelona played a little bit of a poker game by giving absolutely everything in the first half. After [the red card], it became hard.”
The teams who contested the 2006 UEFA Champions League final renew their rivalry in the round of 16 with Arsenal FC well placed to turn the tables after their quarter-final defeat by FC Barcelona a year ago.
The London club lost 6-3 on aggregate to the Spanish side in 2009/10, going down 4-1 in Catalonia and failed to beat Barça in their first 5 attempts, drawing two and losing 3, conceding 10 goals in those defeats.
The Gunners finally ended that run on 16 February, recovering from David Villa’s 26th-minute opener to earn a valuable first-leg lead thanks to late goals from Robin van Persie (78) and substitute Andrey Arshavin (83). Are they able to hold the good result from the first game?
Very familiar rivals
The sides were level after last season’s first leg, Arsenal recovering from 2-0 down to force a 2-2 home draw against the then holders. Arsène Wenger’s team went ahead in the return through Nicklas Bendtner’s 18th-minute effort only for Lionel Messi to take matters in his own hands, scoring all Barça’s goals in a 4-1 victory.
Barcelona also came from behind to defeat Arsenal 2-1 in the 2006 final at the Stade de France. Samuel Eto’o and substitute Juliano Belletti scored in quick succession late on to overturn Sol Campbell’s opener for an Arsenal side reduced to ten men by an early red card for Jens Lehmann, the first player sent off in a European Champion Clubs’ Cup final.
Arsenal this time is leading 2-1 after first leg, but does not have good history going to Camp Nou.
The clubs also met in the 1999/2000 UEFA Champions’ League group stage. The game in England was played at Wembley where the Catalan giants followed a 1-1 draw in Spain with a 4-2 win. Current coach Josep Guardiola captained Barcelona in both matches while Puyol was on the bench for the Wembley game. Speaking about Carles Puyol, by the recent reports he will be out of Tuesday game, due to injury.
How they do at home and on the road?
Barcelona won all three home fixtures in finishing top of Group D, overcoming Panathinaikos FC (5-1) and FC København and FC Rubin Kazan (both 2-0). It was the fourth successive year they had topped their section and they have now qualified from the initial group stage in the last nine campaigns in which they have taken part.
Last season Barça reached the semi-finals, losing to eventual winners FC Internazionale Milano, coached by Jose Mourinho.
Arsenal won their first away game in Group H, 3-1 at FK Partizan, but then lost 2-1 at FC Shakhtar Donetsk and 2-0 at SC Braga to finish second behind Shakhtar.
•Víctor Valdés returned to the starting XI on Saturday for the first time since suffering a left knee injury at Arsenal.
• Xavi suffered a calf injury in training on 22 February but returned to action against Valencia.
• Jeffrén (left thigh, out since 20 January) and Carles Puyol (left knee, 22 January) are back in training, but doubtful for Tuesday game
• Laurent Koscielny missed the Orient replay with a hamstring injury but returned on Saturday, when Jack Wilshere played 90 minutes but picked up an ankle knock.
• Thomas Vermaelen has not played since 7 September due to an Achilles problem.
• Van Persie was ruled out for three weeks after damaging his knee scoring Arsenal’s goal in the League Cup final.
• Cesc Fàbregas (hamstring) and Theo Walcott (ankle sprain) have not played since picking up injuries against Stoke on 23 February while Alex Song (knee) has been sidelined since 27 February.
• Łukasz Fabiański is likely to miss the remainder of the season after sustaining a shoulder injury during the warm-up before Arsenal’s game with Manchester City FC on 5 January.
• Emmanuel Frimpong has not played since damaging knee ligaments in training in August.
However from the latest Arsene Wenger updates The Gunners expect to have Cesc Fàbregas and possibly also Robin van Persie fit for the Camp Nou decider.
Gerrad Pique is out for this game due to yellow cards suspension, but Andres Iniesta has to be careful as well, because yellow in this game will exclude him from the 1st leg of quarterfinals.
Referee Massimo Busacca is from Switzerland, has plenty of experience, he was officiating 35 UEFA Champions League matches and 100 other games in UEFA competitions. On a daily basis company director in Italian speaking southern canton of Ticino in Switzerland, like almost every Swiss man he is great skier. Busacca representing one of the highest level of officiating and we should expect consistency and solid performance from him, as well from his 5 Swiss assistants.
Arsenal – FC Barcelona 2-1
0-1 David Villa (26)
1-1 Robin Van Persie (78)
2-1 Andrey Arshavin (83)
My Prediction for the second leg
It is not a secret that both teams are explosive in offense, 4 goals shouldn’t be a big surprise, but I would be careful with betting over 3.5 goals (current bookies line). As fares picking the winner, after reading all these facts and numbers above, it’s really hard to believe that Arsenal will escape with a result that will let them go through. Arsenal will play without injured Robin Van Persie, who scored 12 goals in their last 9 games.
In my opinion, we should see once again very entertaining show on Camp Nou, but at the end of the day, as much as I like Arsene Wenger and Wojciech Szczesny, FC Barcelona will score enough goals to advance. My pick for exact score is FC Barcelona to win 2-0, and from Wednesday, ambitious Arsenal will focus on English Premiers League and FA Cup where they still have chances to win both trophies.
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What is your prediction for Tuesday match? – welcome your comments below
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