Up Up and Away: Arsenal – Barça

CL Preview: Arsenal – Barça, Wednesday 2:45pm FSC, Fox Soccer en Español

Before you read this, read this, an interview I did with Just Football.

After all the hype, all the vituperation, all the awesome iReports, the hand-wringing over injuries (Iniesta out, Cesc doubtful, I hurt my hamstring on Saturday as well), and the various opinion pieces here, it’s time for the real preview. I hope you can survive an extra 24 hours with only Frenchies surrendering to each other and Bayern attempting to deprive ManU of a third consecutive finals to get us through these moments and to our beloved. [ed note: I’m writing this while watching the second of those two matches and listening to Rufus Wainwright, so apologies if this is an absurd preview–actually, no I don’t apologize, it’s Arsenal Week!]

It’s London for us, with its torture-chamber towers and falling bridges, nice metro system, and, of course, it’s rich history of football. There are something like 84,234 first division teams in London, but fortunately we only have to play against one of them at a time. And, really, if we’re to play any team from London, I would like it to be Arsenal. I like their style and I think matches against them are generally really good or at least have the potential to be so.

Typically I do a long-winded historical introduction to the city, but if you don’t know about Jack the Ripper, Buckingham Palace, and Oliver Cromwell, well, I’ve provided a bunch of Wikipedia links to get you started; not that any of that is particularly encyclopedic or well-rounded, but it’s a start. Instead of general English or British history, I’ll start off with a short primer on Arsenal.

Founded in 1886 as Dial Square by workers at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, renamed Royal Arsenal, then renamed Woolwhich Arsenal when they became a professional squad in 1891, and finally renamed to Arsenal FC in 1913 when they left Woolwich for the neighborhood of Highbury. That’s when they built Arsenal Stadium, better known as Highbury, which was the club’s home until 2006 when they moved to their current home, Emirates Stadium. The team has done well in English competition, winning 13 titles, most recently in 2003-04 when they went undefeated and garnered 90 points. They’ve also won the FA Cup 10 times, most recently in 2005 when they beat Man United on penalties. The team has never won a Champions League title, but they do have a European Cup Winner’s Cup to their name: 1994’s 1-0 victory over Parma in Copenhagen.

The Emirates is a 60,355 seat stadium with a Desso Grassmaster surface (the same surface used in the Bernabeu), which means it should have a smooth surface for slick playing. The field is supposedly larger than that of the Camp Nou’s (116×76 meters as opposed to 112×72 meters, according to Wikipedia) and if that’s the case, that bodes well for us. Incidentally, the first goal scored by an Arsenal player in the Emirates was in Dennis Bergkamp’s testimonial and it was, naturally enough, scored by Thierry Henry.

So here we are, looking at a good team currently sitting in third in the EPL whose only questions are injuries. They’ve got a style they won’t betray and they’ve got the skills to work the ball through our pressure defense; that means this will be at tough match. I’ve already profiled their star attackers, so there’s no need to do that again, but several commenters have pointed out that perhaps we should be more worried about Abou Diaby than we are about some of the out-and-out attackers Arsenal will field.

My own opinion of Diaby is that he’s a serious work-in-progress and by no means capable of dealing with Barça’s midfield for 90 minutes. He’s an attacker more than a defender and that could be his undoing if he’s continually stuck in a “negative” position by Barça’s typical ball possession, which I do expect. It would be very surprising to me to see him have an excellent game when matched up against the likes of Xavi, Keita, or Yaya in the attacking third. Not only that, but he’s apparently carrying a knock that could keep him out.

Arsenal’s not-all-that-good wing backs (Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna–who are decent, but really, not all that good) will need a lot of cover whenever our wingers take them wide. If we start Henry, that will be often, if we start Pedro, it will be constant and unceasing. Messi’s positioning will be interesting as wel. I’m not sure if Guardiola thinks it’s better to put the little guy into the middle as a false 9, into the very middle as a true 10, or out wide as, um, a Messi–or should I say as a 7 a la Garrincha? Wherever he plays, you know he’ll only be there for a few seconds before moving on to a different spot. That is, after all, the nature of the beast that is Barcelona.

So what of us? Our squad: Valdes, Pinto, Marquez, Puyol, Piqué, Milito, Sergio Busquets, Touré, Xavi, Keita, Alves, Abidal, Maxwell, Pedro, Bojan, Ibrahimovic, Messi, Jonathan dos Santos, Henry, Jeffren.

Obviously a huge inclusion is Abidal and a huge exclusion is Iniesta. Pique’s inclusion is also a massive boost if he really is able to put in 90 minutes. I’d rather see him up against Bendtner and Vermaelen on set pieces than Milito, but The Great Hatchet of Bernal has proven himself a worthy member of the squad so I won’t be too worried if he partners Puyol. The only thing I would worry about is fatigue for those two CBs because they’ve played quite a few matches in a row now, especially Puyol. If Abidal is fully fit, I want to see him start simply because of that same fatigue factor. I think Maxwell is running out of gas after some 500 matches in a row.

Who starts in our midfield? I think we should go with Busi-Yaya-Xavi, but because that lineup has never started together (not that I can recall, anyway), I’m thinking we’ll see Busi-Keita-Xavi. Guardiola is a master of the crazy, though, so hopefully we will see the Beast-Beast-Maestro combo in the middle (that’s akin to a Mortal Kombat move of Forward-Forward-A, perhaps). Either way, the idea will be to control and dominate, to find the gaps and play triangles through them.

So, then, finally, does Henry play? I think so. He hasn’t played for a bit, but I think that he’ll be our best option against serious opposition. I like Pedro’s contributions, of course, but Henry provides veteran leadership and defensive cover that Pedro doesn’t and doesn’t often, respectively, provide. So I think we’ll see Henry-Ibra-Messi up front.

Predicted Lineup: Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Milito, Maxwell, Busi, Keita, Xavi, Henry, Ibra, Messi.

I would like to see Pique and Abidal out there along with The Yaya, but I’m thinking we won’t see them until the return leg simply because that makes the most sense. It’s not a do-or-die moment, though it’s getting towards that kind of thing. I’d rather see us draw with Arsenal away, then beat them at home, and beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu on April 10.

Official Prediction: 2-2. I think it’ll be open and we’ll let in two stupid goals. But Messi will show everyone why it is that he’s, well, Messi. It’s the start to the true business end of the season and thus the time when Guardiola injects everyone with Red Bull (and Dani Alves with nothing), so our 2-2 will be what we begin to build off of and run on for the rest of the season. Thus the title of this here post.
TV: In the US, this match will be on Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Sports Español.
Time: 7:45pm Local/London time, 2:45pm EST/New York time, check your local time here.

More tomorrow leading up to kickoff.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.


  1. I’m ready for this match, and I’m ready to show the world we are the best team in world. Bayern already helped us out a little bit ; )

    I heard via bs.com that there are thoughts of shifting Puyol to left back (cuz of Maxwell’s weak defending) and having Milito and Pique in the center. Think there is any chance of this? Would this even work?

  2. Rufus Wainwright! He is awesome.

    Anyway, I myself am hoping for a 2-1, but I’ll be happy with a 2-2. Nice review.

  3. i think we will play 4-4-2 with Messi in 10 position and Pedro and Keita on wings. I also think that we will see Yaya paired with Xavi in middle. And Alves-Pique-milito-puyi back line. Henry will come in at around 70 minutes for ibra. and if i get this right, i should join pep as assistant:).

    looking forward to a good match. first goal is important. i think that if we reach half time on level terms, we will win.

  4. Tyler

    How exactly will you help to show barcelona FC as the greatest team? By wearing your barca pyjamas while you watch the game on TV?

    Here’s to a great game, with no dodgy decisions either way and hopefully, the better team winning overall, who ever that may be!

    1. I’ll help by sticking only the sharpest needles into the Fabregas voodoo doll I keep under my pillow ; )

      Oh and also by wearing my barca pajamas all day, even at work!

  5. I’d like to see Busi-Yaya-Xavi as well.

    Really excited of this match, hopefully it lives up to the hype!

  6. ibra: “tengo que hacer mas”

    when we say it, we arent being fair, when he says it….


    we need ibra big tomorrow. we gave away a lot for him, he is the main difference in our team between last season and this season. it’s only reasonable that we focus attention on him. he needs to show and prove in the big game tomorrow.

    it doesnt mean we are hating on him. especially when he says things like this, i like: “espero poder ayudarle (a messi) a ganar la Bota de Oro.”

  7. nice preview, do you guys not rate keita then? he seemed pretty good when we played sevilla a year or 2 back, scores a cracking goal as well, what we also see alot in the english press is one or the other of the toures or yayas agent complaining that he doesnt get much playing time?

    pretty nervous / excited about the game tomorrow, im sure we are capable of beating anyone even with the form barca have been in the last few games but also that on a bad day we are capable of being beaten by anyone, even the worst, if our bad team and the good barca turns up we could be in for a real drubbing other than that happening i hope it will be a great game, hopefully gallas can start as while sol has done ok for us since his return he is 35 and i dont think he would stand a chance against the pace of messi and the rest of your attack for 90 mins.

    heres to a good game and whoever wins it going on to win the tournament as i couldnt stand it if man u or inter win it

    1. Oh, no, we rate Keita highly here! It’s just that he’s coming back from injury, amoungst more tactical things…

    2. It’s not that I don’t rate Keita–quite the opposite, in fact–it’s that Busi has shown himself to be a solid player as well as Guardiola’s favorite DM and, well, I’m rather madly in love with Yaya so I always want to see him play.

      Even objectively speaking, however, I’m favoring Yaya simply because I think he does a better job of controlling the ball than Keita. Seydou is certainly a masterful box-to-box midfielder and I often call for his inclusion simply based on his midfield steel, but that’s not what I see this game really needing. Guardiola, of course, will befuddle us all by fielding Jonathan dos Santos and Jeffren in defense or something.

      I concur with calling for a good game–it’s should be a pretty rockin’ affair, though my heart of hearts sees a fairly lop-sided scoreline for whoever decides to show up tomorrow. Again, objectively, I think a draw is on the cards, but there’s a voice back there telling me it could be 3-0 or 0-3.

    3. agreed, in a game which control of the ball means life and death, i think yaya or busi will do a better job and keita. while yaya can do as much destruction anywhere on the field as keita, keita can be an extremely useful substitute if things are not quite going our way.

    4. I agree about keeping Keita on the subs bench for all the reasons you two mentioned. And you are right, Keita can have a bigger impact coming in as a sub than The Yaya can, especially if we need a goal. I think we would be best off with the line-up that Isaiah predicted (except with The Yaya in for Keita), mostly because it will leave us with two super subs in Keita and Pedro.

    5. I think your man crush on Yaya is clouding your judgment. I’m 50/50 on whether Pep will go with your idea (why do you say here that you favor Yaya when in the post you put Keita and not Yaya in your lineup?), but I definitely prefer Keita for the left box-to-box role. If Busi plays, which I think we’re all convinced of, he will play as the pure(r) DM and for me that’s the only place Yaya fits into.

    6. *I* prefer The Yaya, but my predicted lineup was who I thought *Guardiola* would put out there. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear at any point.

      I think it comes down to a preference on roles: do you want a pure DM fronted by Xavi and a box-to-box midfielder or a pure DM fronted by Xavi and another ball-control midfielder. If the former is your cup of tea, Keita is your man. For the latter, because Iniesta is out, The Yaya fits the bill the best.

      Because I like the DM-Xavi-Iniesta middle three the most, I’m going with The Yaya. Perhaps that’s clouded judgment, as you say, but I want more possession than lung capacity, so I’m going with Yaya over Keita as *my* desired starters.

  8. Isaiah,

    the Mortal Kombat reference is pure genius. I couldn’t stop laughing when I read it.

    Great preview, and here’s to seeing Henry not celebrate after he heads in a corner after a near post flick from Puyol.

    That’s right. I’m calling it. That way. Specifically.

  9. too bad i’ll be in class during the game. i’ll watch it on replay though, definitely.

    anybody know how quickly rojadirecta puts games up in general?

    1. Not really sure. If I had to guess, I’d say a couple of hours after the game at best, and the next day at worst.

      If you go back a couple of posts (4?), I posted a mini-article on the options you have if you can’t watch the game/will miss it and don’t have a TV.

    2. Jose,
      The quickest way I know to watch delayed is justin.tv streams.
      You can even start watching game while it’s is still playing. Caveat: it is dangerous though if archive starts playing well into the game you could see/hear a spoiler. I squint my eyes and turn volume down, look for the correct color shirts and the clock without seeing scoreline.


      Put name of channel in blank, click the earliest archive of the day, look at the timezone of channel and carefully move forward till you find recording. Watchout that some channels jump by 1 or 2 hour increments so an archive may start 5 minutes into game, and next archive is messi being interviewed postgame about his 3 goals (lets hope.)

      Here are some channels that have broadcast barca game before:


      Check rojadirecta in AM before you go to class for more streams.
      And here is Kari info from few posts ago:

      Usually mysoccerplace.net has the full games a couple of hours later, but they don’t show UCL games … Though if you’re lucky, you can find the match (e.g Arsenal vs Porto is available
      *http://www.mysoccerplace.net/video/arsenal-vs-porto-50-full-match )

      -If you don’t mind listening in (usually) Spanish, Justin.tv sometimes has the game. Just search for it.

      -If you have the Veetle player, then (if you’re lucky) someone could be streaming a channel (e.g ESPN) and you could watch it there.

      -If the above fails (and I recommend looking through the aforementioned sites quickly since they get taken down fairly fast) then you can do what I did when I had to miss a UCL game.

      1) Get the VLC player if you don’t already have it.
      2) Go to rapidshare.com, mediashare.com, the blog section of mysoccerplace.net, rojadirecta.org, matchhighlight.com, or just comeback to the blog and most likely someone will post it. IF no-one’s posted it (though I doubt it), use Google, but I really recommend you wait it out, since some of the sites are iffy, but I’m sure you know that )

    3. ..ack sorry for the long post…would have put this on the “Where To Watch” page….but no comments turned on there!
      (Maybe ther could be?)

    4. Are you sure? The schedule on their site says the Barca game will be shown live.


  10. I am so hyped for this game, I’m gonna be wearing my Barca jersey to school. I really hope Ibra man handles Vermaleen and that Henry keeps Sagna pinned back. Messi is gonna show how shitty at defending Clichy is.

    1. Aww, not SoccerMom soliloquy? 🙁 😀

      Those are genius! It’s like modern Shakespeare, except more modern, Barca-related and thus, more enjoyable 😀 .

  11. Nice Isaiah, I’m ready for this game. I just don’t see Arsenal Stopping us from scoring and unless it ends up 4-1 I think we can win at home and thus take the tie.

    1. I guess I should edit my line-up. Gallas has had three days to train and Campbell is, well, 35. If him (Sol) playing 2 games in 4 days can be avoided, I think it will be. Not to mention Gallas is first choice anyway. So:

      Sagna – Vermaelen – Gallas – Clichy
      Fabregas – Song – Diaby
      Nasri – Bendtner – Arshavin

      For us, Abidal’s been given the green light, but since he’s coming back from injury and lacks match fitness, I wouldn’t throw him into the line of fire in such a big game, so Maxwell gets the nod for me. Pique seems to have recovered from his knee problem. We definitely need Geri’s passing ability. I’d actually like to see Milito play, just because those two (Pique and Milito) have such a good understanding, but no way Captain Caveman doesn’t start.

      Midfield is interesting. It’s a battle between Keita, Busi, and Yaya. Iniesta’s normal “replacement” is Keita, and Busi usually gets the nod for DM, a notion enforced by the fact Yaya played vs Mallorca. That said, I’d LIKE to see Busi-Yaya-Xavi, with Busi playing the Iniesta role and Yaya being the primary ball winner (Busi’s ball winning expertise can also be used to help if needed.)
      As Isaiah said above, I don’t think it’ll happen. So I call:

      Alves – Pique – Puyol – Maxwell
      Xavi – Busi – Keita
      Henry – Ibra – Messi

      Knowing Pep though, we might actually see Jeffren at left back, with Ibra as a goalkeeper. 😀

    2. I cannot imagine Gallas will play, I think all those reports are wishful thinking. Notice the contrast: Iniesta came off clearly injured, and, from a position of strength, Barca staff came right out and said it. Fabregas did not come off, but really should have, since he looked pretty niggled, and, from a position of weakness, Arsenal staff have been issuing headlines like “he could play”. Now the headline is that he is “a major doubt”, and so Wenger says that he will “talk about it” with Gallas. That says to me that Gallas is not quite fit, but close enough to put on and get up Arsenal fans’ hopes.

      I remember, of course, that Gallas has only been out for this long because Arsenal staff and Wenger have admitted to rushing the recovery. I suppose it could happen, but for me it would be a mistake.

    3. I don’t think anyone really believed those ‘doubt’ stories. I’d say it was an attempt at mind games from Arsenal. Now it’s ‘Breaking News: Fabregas will start vs Barcelona”

      Yeah, like he wouldn’t!

  12. Forecast in London is 70% chance of rain.

    It’s been raining the past few days there already :/

    Definitely not the ideal weather for the Total Football Bowl.

  13. I think we need Abidal very much. especially against fast wingers of arsenal, Abidal’s return will mean more. Even if Maxwell is not tired, I’d still start Abidal without much match fitness because he is out of any measurement.

  14. Well done in the Just Football interview, Isaiah. Way to rep it. Congrats on the success.

    Let’s kick some Arse-nal!

  15. 3-1 to barca
    goals by messi, ibra, xavi
    and then 4-0 at our home goals by messi(2)pedro, miliTIO!!!
    guys i cant see how we aint gonna smash them

  16. Dont you guys remember when abi had H1N1 and he still unexpectedly came into the lineup against inter and completely owned?if he plays we have no worries on the left for sure.

  17. If Abidal is fit, and he wouldn’t be back in the squad if he wasn’t, play him. Stat. That is huge. His range and pace, not to mention midfield destructive qualities and increasing skill at going forward, make him the clear choice.

    With Arsenal’s pace on the wing, you can pretty much forget any attacking forays by Maxwell, who will have to stay honest. But with Abidal’s pace, he can go forward and still get back. That is GREAT news!

    As far as Bayern/United, can’t say that I’m surprised. Interesting that every goal came off a defensive error rather than great individual play. DeMichaelis boneheads it up, United’s deflection off the wall, then they get caught dithering in the box in added time. The Rooney freak injury is a bummer for them, though. Too bad, really, because he was in a rich vein of form.

    Now Bayern still have a tough row to hoe, rolling into Old Trafford. Oh, a work buddy of mine relayed a quip, that Robben should design his own line of casual wear, since he’s in street clothes so often. 😀

    Recall that he visited this fancy-pants doctor, who swore up and down that the magic he was going to work on Glass Man would render him fragile no longer. Whatevs, dude. Whatevs.

    1. I can tell you that I was damn much surprised by Bayern Munich 🙂

      If you have / had seen them play in the last Bundesliga matches (2 wins out of 6, losses against teams from the lowest third of the table, horrific defending), you could only fear that United smashes them…
      To cap it off, United leads after just 65 seconds due to a stupid fould by Demichelis and a slip, again by Demichelis, and ANOTHER tap-in for Rooney (I guess 20 of his 34 goals were one-touches). I was absolutely devastated after this nightmare-ish start, because:
      – I don’t like ManUtd at all
      – I have a bet running that CR gets the CL top goal scorer’s crown, if Messi still surpasses him, I’m fine – but not Rooney!
      Then, in the first half, Rooney missed a one-on-one against Butt of which I thought he would certainly burry that chance to kill the game and me off 🙂

      Bayern Munich missed Schweinsteiger, their most important midfield player who is also the main distributor of the ball (most passes, most touches, most long-range passes of all Bundesliga players) who really stepped up under LvG. They also missed a certain Robben, who doesn’t need any introduction.
      As a consequence, they had to play Altintop and Pranjic, 2 absolute no-performers this season so far.

      So why did Bayern win? First of all, they showed great spirit and motivation, LvG really got his players ready for this match. But I think it was mainly due to ManUtd stopping to play football, maybe in sureness of a win. Luciano Spaletti, ex-coach of AS Roma, said last year, after their defeat against ManUtd in the CL, that they’ve been tactically out-classed by a more Italian team then themselves. Yesterday, Ferguson used a similar tactics, but luckily Bayern penalized them.

      As for the 2nd leg, Schweinsteiger and Robben will be back. Rooney probably not. Everything speaks for Bayern – but for most people, everything also spoke for ManUtd yesterday 🙂

      Nonetheless, go ahead, FC Bayern – Stern des Südens!

      [wouldn’t it be great to see no English team in the semis and a final of Bayern-Barca aka la Bestia Negra vs Real’s archrival in their own stadium???]

  18. Oh, and spare a thought for Maradumber, whose Shar-Pei decided to take matters into its own hands regarding getting a better coach for Argentina, when it tried to rip Maradumber’s lip off. But after surgery and some more plastic surgery as long as he was there, Argentina’s non-coach will be just fine.

    1. “kxevin says:
      March 30, 2010 at 10:07 pm

      Oh, and spare a thought for Maradumber, whose Shar-Pei decided to take matters into its own hands..”
      oh my can’t stop laughing! *LOL*

  19. Hearing a lot of Abidal talk….is he an imminent return?? Awesomeness if so.

    A word on Alves…what’s up with him? He’s a weird case. In the last several games, he’s shown some pretty damn good defense, the kind of defense I’ve never seen from him. On the other hand…his offense has been awful! It must be said that he can be counted on to put in two or three good crosses a game, and if we could just get a man on the end of it he would have a nice portfolio of assists. But with that said, I have to keep from groaning whenever he gets a ball on the wing, because those two or three are about 2-3% of his crosses throughout the game. The rest range from mediocre to comically awful. And then there’s his distribution. I suppose he was always the player liable to give away the ball in the midfield at times, but now it seems he’s doing it every game, and it always leads to attacks. All of that completely overshadows whatever he’s offered in flare lately.

    I don’t know if it’s just poor form or if he’s missing Messi now that the latter’s playing more centrally, but I’m concerned.

  20. Looked at the iReport…did anyone see that guy that pronounced “cules” (put in that accent) kewls? Hello KEWLS!

    I think I also heard “Bendtler” and “Emirates” with a long “A”. Not to be picky but those little things bug me…

    1. calm down alexinho, I said CULES. Its just my northern accent that makes it sound like Kewls at times. My apologies.

      And yes I said Bentler, but with live stuff like that, I can’t go back and edit sound for every little slip of the tongue.

    1. *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDY2I5pni90

      Nervous? Excitement and nervousness come hand in hand! 😀

      You’re just feeling the nervous part; the excitment will start when the game is actually being played, not hypothetical analysis. 🙂

    2. Ive been drumming my fingers since the time I came to work and my colleagues are pissed at me.!!!!!

  21. Great interview btw, Isaiah. We need a rematch on FIFA soon. I might let you score some goals this time. 😀

    1. Not likely. I mean the me scoring goals. I haven’t played a whole ton recently because I’ve been busy. Soon, though.

  22. Pique and Abidal trained yesterday in emirate, so im sure both will make the line up today. pls i want to ask why people keep saying that ARSENAL are kids? but they beat Porto 5-0 at home, and they are in quater finals of cl…

    1. I think the growing of Age comes when they win a title such as the Premier League, or the Champions League. So in that sense they are all kids.

  23. yaya and ibra are the key players imo.
    they need to use their power to good use.
    arsenal have problems against physical players.

  24. isaiah, did you refer busi as a “beast”?
    i think biscuits is more suitable for him 😛

    1. Busi is a beast because, not only can he repel an attack from the opposition, he has a quick release of the ball, which helps with the attack in Barcelona. He has some bad moments, but his movement and positioning is very attack minded, compared to Yaya who is more defense oriented with a slower release of the ball.

  25. Hey, you gotta watch the interview of Pep and Zlatan:
    If you scroll down a bit, on the right side is a video player, select the channel Sun Sport and there you go.

    Zlatan’s Interview ends with a big smile of our BANGS and him saying “ne ne ne ne ne”, and then “I think even Inspector Clouseau would enjoy it”.
    What exactly has happened there, what made Zlatan smile? 🙂

  26. I would support playing a super motivated Jeffren in this game for pace, desire and width.

  27. So according to totalbarca.com Swiss ref Massimo Busacca will be in charge of this match. He was the referee for the Champions Leg final last year where I thought he did a really good job. Fair but with not too many cards and fouls called slowing down the play. He also refereed our home leg against Inter last November.

    I think it’s a good sign for a nice open match.

    1. Yap, he’s the best ref in the world, imo. And not only because we always win and play well with him 😀

    2. haha, just like you. If I remember correctly the majority of your flags from the offside were Swiss – we know they tend to vary, but Swiss flag dominated your posts as far as I remember 😉

    3. definitely the best ref in world right now. am so so happy that howerd webb cannot ref this match. i think that guy is one of the worst refs ever.

    4. Yeah, I always find it ridiculous when media pundits (primarily in England) say that UEFA should only use referees from the big leagues, who have more experience refereeing top level football. Like Howard Webb is a shining beacon of refereeing awesomeness. Where as Busacca is an excellent ref from a not so huge league.

      Maybe they should just use the best refs available?

      (/end of rant)

  28. Pique and Puyol are both one yellow away from suspension. Starting both of them is a risk, but it’ll most likely still happen. If one of them is booked, I think Milito will replace the one that hasn’t been booked.

    i.e. If Puyol is booked, Milito will replace Pique so Geri’s available for the second leg.

    The possibility of Milito-Marquez for the second leg makes me nauseous. Well, just the Marquez part…

    Clichy and Fabregas will also miss the next game if booked.

  29. Quelle surprise! “Cesc sera titular” says Marca and AS. And expect Gallas to start, Sol on the bench.

  30. The irony…


    1. What the – ? OK, Messi isn’t as good in Argentina NT as he is in Barça, I’ll give them that.

      But I didn’t know it was going to be Arsenal FC vs. Argentina NT …

  31. Anyone know if the Fox Sports affiliate channels will broadcast this in HD eith on the west or arizona channel?

    They didnt announce the Bayenr ManU game until late yesterday before the game…………It only makes sense that they would do the Arsenal Barca (since it is a coveted EPL team……)

  32. Four weeks out for Rooney, so he definitely misses the return leg at Old Trafford. Ouch. I still think that United will advance. Bayern just have too many dire moments to put away a side of that caliber in their house.

    For some reason, I’m nervous about this match today. Not sure why. Maybe it’s the whole notion of us playing up to our potential. I’d be a lot less nervous with one Ghostface in the house, but that’s life in the big city, I reckon. I see a fairly tight scoreline, like 2-1 in somebody’s favor. We won’t see the attacking goalfest that some are predicting. No way.

    I also think that without Iniesta, we probably don’t play Keita, because we need ball controllers in the middle. So it’s probably going to be the Xavi/The Yaya/Biscuits center tandem, with Biscuits as destroyer and The Yaya as Xavi’s giant shadow.

    The front line intrigues me. I also have thoughts of moving Messi back to partner with Xavi and Biscuits, with a front line of Henry/Ibrahimovic/Pedro!, so:

    Alves Pique Puyol Abidal
    Messi Xavi Biscuits
    Pedro! Ibrahimovic Henry

    That lineup would intrigue the hell out of me. I think it would also freak Arsenal out because suddenly Messi would be seeing a lot more of the ball, which means potential for even more destabilizing runs.

    I also (shudder!) wouldn’t mind seeing Milito partnering Pique, rather than our Captain. But that would never happen, despite Milito’s pretty comprehensive excellence these days.

    1. Kxevin, I have noticed that Pep has not been starting Henry and Ibra together. This makes sense to me because Ibra tends to shift to the left. And then we have two players in the same position on the left. Also Ibra is very weak at meeting Henry’s crosses in the middle.

      I think Keita will be on, along with Maxwell to streach their defence. Keita is also good with headers and provides a lot of attacking options, he also meets the crosses very well. The lineup that I see for the match is as follows:

      Alves Pique Puyol Maxwell
      Xavi Busi Keita
      Messi Ibra Pedro

    2. Wow. That would be one hell of a lineup. We know that Arsenal arent going to park the bus, or anything close to it, especially at the Emirates. I expect to see one of the most open games we have played all season….although, like you, I dont see a resounding victory either way. I do think though that employing Messi in the middle would afford him a lot more time on the ball and he will likely enjoy a reasonable amount of space since most of Arsenals players are attack minded. The teams that have been brave and tried to play us recently have been punished by Messi for it (Stuttgart, Valencia) and while Arsenal are certainly better than those two teams I think if they give him even slightly too much room he will wreak havoc.

      2-2 is my prediction and then we take care of them in our house.

      P.S I would also like to see Milito partner Pique in the middle, he has been so damn solid lately. Barely ever puts a foot wrong and his reading of the game is exceptional. Who knows, maybe Pep will surprise us all by playing Puyol at LB with Pique and Milito in the middle. Stranger things have happened and if Abidal isnt ready yet then Puyol would certainly provide better defensive cover than Maxwell.

    3. don’t worry i feel nervous too 🙂 and scared at a times 🙂 but arsenal it’s not up to our potential, they just play that stupid english football 🙂

    4. Gabi could still start, both pique and puyi are on yelllows, if both get booked both are out for the second leg, pep might start one, hopefully with pique, just to avoid losing both for the home leg.He tried last time against chelsea but tht kiind of backfired when rafa got injured and puyi still got his card anyway 😕

  33. Pep to coaching staff: Add extra caffeine in everyone’s drink toniight…and no tranquilizers for Dani.

  34. Frankly guys i am a bit afraid for today’s game because of the iniesta’s abscence, but anyway we are Barca and we are a Force so i expect a heavy game and a 3-0 of course a hat-trick of the Messi(ah).

    About the formation i think the standard D-line would be the best dani-pique-puyol-abidal, hearing that he would be ready for the game. the main thing that bothers me is the midfield. my opinion would be yaya-xavi-keita if the form. is 4-3-3 or yaya-xavi-keita-messi (as a AMF that is) but i think that it will be crucial that pep brings a powerful attacks witch means ibra-henry-messi, or henry-ibra-pedro if messi eventually plays something of a AMF.

    I have no doubts about the enthusiasm of our team for the game and i am sure that we will win. a defeat or even minor defeat i do NOT consider it as an outcome. VISCA LA BARCA WE ARE ALL WITH YOU!!! GLORY ON THE WAY TO THE TROPHY!!!

    p.s. i just can’t tell you how much i love barca!!! 🙂

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