Clash of the (Injured) Titans: Barça – Arsenal [Updated]

I will so totally score this!

CL Preview: Barça – Arsenal, Tuesday 2:45pm EST, Fox Soccer en Español/Fox Sports Affiliate

Wow.

The list of who is not playing is particularly impressive. It’s the return leg of the quarterfinals of the Champions League and it feels like a match no one wants to play. The fans are looking forward to it with absurd passion, but holy mackerel, there are so many injured or suspended players that you could make a world-beating side out of them. For us there’s Puyol and Pique both suspended while Ibra, Iniesta, Jeffren, and possibly Yaya are injured (Pique too, for that matter); for Arsenal, there’s William Gallas, Andriy Arshavin, Cesc Fabregas (also suspended), the long-term injury of Robin van Persie, and now Alex Song. That’s 10 players who would otherwise start all missing (maybe Gallas wouldn’t and maybe Yaya wouldn’t, but I think they would) along with a capable backup in Jeffren.

Because of that, my Excitement for this match is being jostled in the hallways of my mind by that big, jerkwad bully, Apprehension. I don’t like it when Excitement gets shoved into a locker after being given an atomic wedgie. It’s not that I’m not confident in our replacements, it’s that I hardly know what to expect, especially after this past weekend’s lineup included Maxwell in midfield, Chygrynskiy in the back, and a series of tiny people up front. And while I realize Chygnasty can’t play in the Champions League, I think that his inclusion alongside Pique in the weekend’s lineup means we’ll start a lineup that has had few reps together (Rafa and Gaby) and is thus probably more prone to mistakes in a match where mistakes will be punished severely.

I suppose this match is going to come down to strength of the benches available and because of that, the Liga title race will be heavily influenced by this as well. I’m not actually worried about our defense for el clásico, but rather our front line because without Ibra, we don’t have a truly world class striker. Sure, Bojan is in form at the moment, but he hasn’t proven himself in the Champions League against title contenders and Athletic Bilbao never really looked like they were trying that hard (if that criticism is being leveled at Racing Santander for their display against Real Madrid by the likes of the ever-so-unbiased Sport and Mundo Deportivo, then it should be leveled at Athletic Bilbao as well, though I think in the end both teams were simply played off the park–Racing looked good to score throughout the first half, in fact, while Bilbao didn’t). So can he produce against Arsenal? Can he find gaps between Campbell and Vermaelen? Ibra’s absence will be a huge sigh of relief for those two, who were constantly occupied by our giant Swedish Ninja during the first leg, but Bojan is nowhere near as big. He’s just far squirrellier.

So then, Alves returns to the lineup, we’ve got Abidal back, and Maxwell has been playing very well. Do we play the same system tomorrow as we did against Athletic, with Maxwell playing the Keita/Iniesta role? Or do we revert to what we know is a solid lineup with Keita roving box-to-box? Xavi will start, that’s for sure, and I’m assuming Busi will as well not just because Yaya may not make the lineup at all, but also because Guardiola favors him as the CB. I can’t say who Arsenal will start, but Nasri and Bendtner both started on the bench against Wolves this weekend and they only played 20 and 25 minutes, respectively.

The team that started against us at the Emirates was Almunia-Sagna-Gallas-Vermaelen-Clichy-Diaby-Song-Nasri-Fabregas-Arshavin-Bendtner. Italicized players are missing from tomorrow’s match. I don’t know what Wenger will do, but Denilson made a positive impact for them in midfield–if not a massive and wonderful impact, then certainly a greater impact than I would have foreseen–and Eboue’s introduction for Arshavin gave them a bit more width and backline cover. Obviously Walcott’s introduction was a huge factor for them, but I still see him as a second half sub rather than as a starter because I think he would run out of steam if put on from the start. What of Rosicky, however? According to Soccernet, he’s appeared in 28 EPL and CL matches for Arsenal this year (22 and 6, respectively). That’s a hefty number and so I think we might see him out there. Arseblog appears to agree with me at least up to a point, and thinks Wenger will field Almunia-Sagna-Song (Sol)-Vermaelen-Clichy-Diaby-Nasri-Denilson-Walcott-Bendtner-Rosicky/Eboue. I would think that instead of Walcott we’ll see both Eboue and Rosicky given the nod from the get-go, but obviously Arseblog knows more about Arsenal around than I do (the squad list wasn’t, I don’t think, out when the post saying Song would play was put up).

Of course, Campbell is a doubt as well according to Arsenal’s official site, which cites fatigue as the reason. The official site has released their squad list: Almunia, Fabianski, Bendtner, Eduardo, Diaby, Nasri, Denilson, Merida, Walcott, Eastmond, Rosicky, Traore, Eboue, Clichy, Sagna, Vermaelen, Campbell, Silvestre. Does that mean we’ll see Silvestre out there? I don’t know who to hope for more, Campbell or Silvestre. We’ll find out tomorrow, of course.

Our squad list is not out at the time of writing this, so I can’t be 100% sure that we’ll see particular players, but I do think that we’ll see Valdes, Alves, Marquez, Milito, Abidal, Busi, Keita, Xavi, Henry, Bojan, Messi. Perhaps Pedro! for Henry, but I think that Titi will be ready for this match after not playing against Bilbao. It won’t be as emotional and it won’t be something where he’s coming in to kill the clock as the 9. I don’t foresee Yaya starting and I don’t foresee Iniesta recovering in time to do anything other than ride the bench. Iniesta is, however, training with the group and that is a very good sign for the coming weekend. Yay.

UPDATE: Our squad list came out as I pushed publish on this guy: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Márquez, Milito, Fontàs, Abidal, Maxwell, Touré, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Jonathan, Keita, Jeffren, Bojan, Pedro, Henry, Messi. Iniesta, Yaya, and Jeffren are available. Whether they’ll play is a different question. Fontàs is also included, which is a surprise, but I suppose we needed CB/RB backup.

Now to the scenarios:

  • Any victory by Arsenal and they are through
  • Any victory by Barça and we are through
  • A 2-2 draw and we go to extra time, then penalties
  • A 0-0 or 1-1 draw and we are through
  • a 3-3 draw or greater and they go through

It is unlikely that they will score 3 goals against us at home because no team has done so yet under Guardiola, but that doesn’t put it out of the realm of possibility. In fact, only 3 teams have scored 2 goals against us this season at home: Rubin Kazan (1-2), Atletico Madrid (5-2), and Mallorca (4-2)–it is very important to note that we lost that match against Rubin Kazan and the same thing could happen tomorrow. Not that it will because it won’t.

An early goal from us will cause them to come out to play all the more and I think that will allow us to further dominate the match. That is, of course, a huge undertaking. We’ll have to play how we’ve been playing the last two matches and put away our chances. If we miss anything from a half chance on down to a sitter that my mother would bury, we’ll probably pay for it with a Champions League season-ending loss to Arsenal. That means not allowing Almunia to make reaction saves like at the Emirates, but rather putting those shots out of his reach and into the net.

We also have to be aware that our wings are vulnerable to counterattacks. Abidal’s presence in the squad is huge, not because Maxwell is bad (he’s very good, in fact), but because Abidal is so much faster and that will help us to slow or even kill their counters. I don’t expect them to give the ball away as easily as they did at the Emirates, but I also don’t expect us to fall completely apart towards the end. That puts two speed demons on our wings, which means crosses rolling in all night, just like against Athletic. Jeffren got a tap in on the other side of the goal from the crosser and the ball never really left the ground, so you know there’s some good pace on those. A few of those and we’ll be golden.

Okay, yeah, so yeah. I’m done rambling now.

Official Prediction: 3-1. Call it over-confidence or whatever, but goals by Bojan (2) and Messi will seal this baby early and they’ll get a late one that vaguely rekindles their hope before it is dashed by the final whistle.
Time: This match will kick off at 8:45pm local/Barcelona time, 2:45pmEST/New York time. Check your local time here.
TV: This match will be on both Fox Sports en Español and your local Fox Sports Affiliate. Mine is MSG+. Feel free to list yours in the comments so everyone knows whether or not they get it.
Weather:  ~57F (~14C), clear skies, 0% chance of rain. Perfect weather for a beautiful match.

Onward, upward:

Visca el Barça!
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Written by:

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.

134 Comments

  1. Spencer
    April 5, 2010

    This will be a weird match, but I’m excited nonetheless.

    I feel like Henry is the player on our team who seems to have that sense of urgency about the importance of the first goal. Hopefully, he blasts one from outside the box early, and we can play our game from that point on.

    I don’t see Bojan doing very much, but I’ll bet Busquets comes up big due to his height, because this is the first time we can have crosses flying in from Abidal, Alves, and Maxwell (and Xavi) during the same game in a while. Pity we don’t have Ibra in there as another big body.

    Visca Barca! We’ll take this one, making it look easier than it really is.

  2. Kari
    April 5, 2010

    Just want to say that I don’t think Titi will play this game, let alone start. Not only because it’s Arsenal, but because he’s been generally bad the last couple of matches, and hasn’t proved he should start.

    I think we’ll see (read: I WANT to see) Bojan start.

    Hope we see a win!

  3. Shobo
    April 5, 2010

    Can’t wait for tomorrow’s match! I hope you see a better Arsenal than you did at the Emirates, and I’m hoping that despite our absentees we’ll come out believing we can get something from it.

    I thought I might point out some of the players I really hope perform tomorrow night:

    The Walcott: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDGzNJZdrgg&feature=related
    Inconsistency and injury have blighted his season, and from some sections of the Gunners fans he’s come into a heck of a lot of criticism. He’s also under tremendous pressure to perform in order to book his place in England’s World Cup squad. Wenger has hinted he might keep him on the bench as a late game changer, Theo sometimes has trouble keeping up the quality of his game over 90 minutes.

    Abou Diaby: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlB0-K6PLgY&feature=fvst
    He’s a real enigma, scintillating one moment, and then frustrating beyond belief the next. Arsenal fans are glad Diaby’s found some measure of consistency this season, but he had a real stinker against you guys last week. That said, if he’s on form, don’t even think about being able to get the ball off him, as it’ll be velcroed to his foot. He’s also a very clinical finisher.

    Samir Nasri: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHA8P7G_y3Q&feature=related

    Just watch the video to see why he’s so highly rated. In the absence of Cesc, he’ll be our main creative outlet. He’s got pace, power (despite his size) and a good shot on him. Did I mention he can cut defenses to ribbons with his mazy runs?

    Nasri’s still young, so he also struggles for consistency, and like many in the Arsenal team, he’s had a bad season for injuries, that said, keep an eye on him. He had a decent game against Barca on the wing last week, but he’s much deadlier through the middle.

    I’m hoping for an explosive match, it would crush me if Arsenal went all the way to Barcelona just to lie down and die, we’ve shown enough spirit and character this season to suggest that won’t be the case though.

    More than anything though, I’m hoping for a well refereed, controversy free match!

  4. April 5, 2010

    the “Arsenal-Barca 2nd Leg Not Playing XI”

    okay there’s no injured/suspended keeper but:
    Puyol – Pique – Song – Gallas
    Fabregas – Yaya – Iniesta
    Jeffren – van Persie – Arshavin

    that’s quite a formidable team

    • Kari
      April 5, 2010

      I’d switch Song and Yaya, since Yaya is more experienced at playing CB (see CL final). Otherwise, wow! Quite the team, eh?

  5. Shobo
    April 5, 2010

    Just to add, you should hope for Silvestre starting ahead of Campbell. Campbell is older but he’s a MUCH better defender, he doesn’t have pace but he has positional awareness, communicates with the back line well, is good in the tackle and uses his experience well. Silvestre? Well, he’s a Gunner so I won’t slate him… he’s… slow though.

  6. bob
    April 5, 2010

    Balanced and well thought out article. One thing: Campbell didn’t have any problems with Ibra in the first game since he didn’t play. That was Song who was having the problems. For Barca, trust me you’d much rather have Silvestre in the back than Sol Campbell. I was actually hoping Arsenal would start with the pacy Walcott and Vela up front with Bendtner, but Vela has been left at home.

    My prediction, Arsenal go through in a cracker 3-2.

  7. Daniel
    April 5, 2010

    If you’re including Jeffren in barca list of injuries then I’m going to list Arsenal’s real list of injuries.

    Gallas (he does start)
    Djourou (he starts if Gallas or Vermaelen don’t)
    Song (best DM but 4th best CB- would start ahead of Sol and Silvestre)
    Fabregas
    Ramsey (starts if Cesc doesn’t)
    Arshavin
    RVP

    So we’re on our 5th choice Centre back.
    back up DM.
    4th choice CM (cesc, denilson, Ramsey then who ever starts tomorrow)

    I expect the lineup to be
    ———-Almunia
    Sagna— Sol—- Vermaelen—- Clichy

    ———-denilson————-
    —-diaby———Nasri——
    Eboue———————-Rosicky
    ———-Bendtner————-

    Only 5 of that 11 are usual starters in there position.

  8. redordead
    April 5, 2010

    May the best team win, i would much rather go out to Barca than any other team in the competion.

    Arsenal fan.

    • stephen
      April 5, 2010

      There’s the spirit, said the Japanese.

  9. Daniel
    April 5, 2010

    You can’t include players that are in the squad as injured. You’re only missing Ibrahimvic from your best 11.

    And you have 2 suspended.

    • Kari
      April 5, 2010

      Point made, Daniel, but Pique is actually injured (a thigh (?) injury).

    • April 5, 2010

      I *can* list them. But you’ll note that they’re in the squad list that I wrote hadn’t been released yet. I didn’t know Iniesta, Jeffren, and Yaya were included at all.

      I was hoping Yaya would be, but I actually thought Jeffren was gone for a while. Looked it how he came off against Athletic. Iniesta is also a surprise and might not make the team sheet tomorrow. Hopefully he does.

      And “you’re only missing Ibra from your best 11” is nonsense. Pique is injured regardless of his suspension–if he’s a pure suspension loss, then so is Cesc. Puyol is a suspension, yes, but he was never listed otherwise.

  10. Kxevin
    April 5, 2010

    1. Henry has been very good the last few matches. The Arsenal subsitution was his first clunker in recent memory, and EMD sez that he and Guardiola had a chat about that one. Love to have been a fly on the wall for that one.

    2. Bilbao played hard, and they tried. We were just that good. I don’t think anyone should take that well-earned win away from our side. Yes, there is a talent gap, even though they are the 6th-place side in the Liga. But them there boys put out.

    3. I see 2-1 us, goals by Messi and Xavi. We will concede on a midfield screwup by somebody, then Iniesta will come in to get loose for the weekend and get some match time under his shoes, then he and Xavi will tika-taka the rest of the match away.

    • Jnice
      April 5, 2010

      Kxevin, you thought Henry was good against Osasuna? I thought he looked poor in that match and I think that’s why he was subbed at halftime for Pedro.

      • Kxevin
        April 5, 2010

        Didn’t see the Osasuna match. Sorry. I was frolicking in sunny California, trying to figure out how to remote program my DVR. Unsuccessfully, I might add. Still haven’t watched the downloaded match. Plan to this evening.

      • Kari
        April 5, 2010

        Agreed Jnice.

        At this point, I think Henry is on the down. The last match I can remember where he played well was vs Stuttgart. He didn’t play vs Zaragoza, so I can’t count that, and he was taken off at halftime vs Osasuna por P! after a lacklustre half. Against Mallorca, again he didn’t play–not even a sub appearance even though we had a slight 1-0 lead; came on against Arsenal and was poor; was going to be in the stand vs Bilbao until Ibra’s injury meant he was on the bench, not starting a must-win game when our first-choice striker is out. Instead a 19-year old that has played half as much, gets the start.

        There’s not much to suggest that he will start, or deserves to start, against Arsenal based on the last few matches. The Camp Nou will be disgruntled if he starts over Bojan (and so would I) because of his attitude. While Bojan has been saying that he’s learning, or he’ll wait for his chances, or even now when he says that he won’t be disappointed if he doesn’t start; the same can’t be said for Henry this season.

        At the end of the game on Tuesday, he decided to stay in the centre circle applauding the fans, while our players went straight to the tunnel room, devastated by the result. While he was warming up, he waved and smiled to the crowd, instead of getting his head down and focusing on his warm up (something I found unprofessional).

        While those things are all pretty petty and I don’t mind him applauding his fans and all that. He’s a legend and I get that. Arsenal are his team and that’s all well and good, but right now he’s a BARCA player. If he starts tomorrow after Bojan’s performance which was more than he did the last 5 or so matches, I won’t be happy. IMO, Bojan deserves to start after being so patient and then rewarding Pep’s faith in him with a brace.

        First and foremost, I think of the club. Would the team benefit more starting Henry as he is now, or Bojan as he is now?

        I know my answer.

        /End unnecessary rant.

      • stowe
        April 6, 2010

        wasn’t it osasuna that the whole team played terrible? i don’t remember. also, i think bojan gets the start. but who starts between pedro! and henry? henry’s height would be nice. someone was talking about all the crosses coming in. Has pedro been playing well lately? i thought he was very unnoticeable last wednesday.

  11. Colin
    April 5, 2010

    Like to see lots of the false nine in this one. Make Vermaelen step into midfield to cover Messi and leave Campbell by his lonesome. Or they leave Messi and the possession stats get ridiculous. Without Ibra this seems like the best option.

  12. Kari
    April 5, 2010

    They have Silvestre, we have Marquez. I’d like to think we’re even 😀 .

  13. Eklavya
    April 5, 2010

    Isaiah, you written “Jeffren” twice in your “UPDATED” squad list.

    • Andrew
      April 5, 2010

      LOL! Jeffren…and Jeffren are available.

      • April 5, 2010

        Those are two different sentences, people. Note the punctuation.

        And how come you’re only pointing out that I’ve supposedly listed Jeffren twice and not Iniesta and Yaya?

        • Eklavya
          April 5, 2010

          Heck! I didn’t see both of them! Although, Isaiah, you are disgracing your reputation by simply calling The Almighty Yaya as “Toure”. 😀

  14. Daniel
    April 5, 2010

    What do you guys honestly expect your starting lineup to be??

    • April 5, 2010

      Alves, Marquez, Milito, Abidal, Busi, Xavi, Keita, Henry, Bojan, Messi.

      We could see Iniesta for Keita if he really is good to go or Pedro for Henry.

      • Kxevin
        April 5, 2010

        I think it will be:

        Valdes
        Alves/Marquez/Milito/Abidal
        Busquets/Xavi/Keita
        Messi/Henry/Pedro!

        Krkic sits tight as a potential game-changer. I think it’s the reason Pedro! didn’t start against Bilbao.

        On the other hand, Guardiola has been rather unconventional of late, so what if he starts with a true 4-2-4, and treats this match as a final?

        Valdes
        Alves/The Yaya/Milito/Abidal
        Busquets/Xavi
        Pedro!/Henry/Messi/Krkic

        That lineup would kinda kick ass, particularly with Henry (who better man the hell up) as the focal point and distributor.

        Now, this second possibility will never happen, but I wouldn’t put anything past Guardiola.

        • Vj
          April 5, 2010

          Why not

          VV
          Alves-Yaya-Milito-Abidal
          Xavi-Busi-Keita
          Messi-Bojan-P!

        • Bojan
          April 5, 2010

          wow that’s a destruction unit you put up there i like it! Marquez should not be played he is not up to the defensive challenge. The destroyer Yaya is here, and bring up the brute attacking force. If i were Pep and had 4-2-4 on mind….. damn it! massive enormous attacking plays.

        • stephen
          April 5, 2010

          I doubt Henry will start at all. He was awful on the away leg, and it just feels like he doesnt really want it.

  15. Eklavya
    April 5, 2010

    Goal.com does it again. IT’s on El Clasico this time:

    “after El Clasico, Barcelona face Deportivo, travel to Espanyol for El Derbi Barcelones, host Xerez, visit Villarreal, host Tenerife, travel to Sevilla, and finish against Valladolid in the Camp Nou. Of those matches, the away fixtures at Espanyol, Villarreal, and Sevilla present the main difficulties. For Real Madrid, the road after El Clasico seems a bit more difficult. It begins at Almeria, then they welcome Valencia to the Bernabeu, travel to face Zaragoza in the raucous Romareda, host Osasuna, travel to the Ono Estadi to face Mallorca, entertain Athletic at home, and travel to Malaga. Of those matches, the fixtures against Valencia, Zaragoza, and Mallorca look to be the most complicated. ”

    So Zaragoza, Mallorca and Valencia are more difficult than Villareal, Sevilla and Espanyol?

    • Tutomate
      April 5, 2010

      It doesn’t matter because BS.com doesn’t watch the matches anyway so they wouldn’t know.

    • Kyle
      April 5, 2010

      I’m the last person to defend goal.com, but they indeed have a harder fixture list. The 3 toughest fixtures for RM should be Valencia, ALMERIA, and Mallorca. Almeria are very tough at home. Mallorca is tougher than Sevilla and Villareal, and Almeria are on par with Sevilla and Villarea at home. Espanyol are not Valencia. Plus we have 3 home games against the bottom 3 in the league.

  16. Ethan
    April 5, 2010

    HUGE GAME TOMORROW! SO EXCITED! VISCA EL BARCA!!!

    • Eklavya
      April 5, 2010

      Do you say anything else except “VISCA EL BARCA!” OR “BARCA!!!” ? 😀 😀 😀

        • Ethan
          April 5, 2010

          Nope 🙂 only on the liveblog do i ever give my two-sense. other than that, its all love! Though i do find myself from time to time defending our boys and doing a little trash talk to anyone that speaks utter nonsense.

  17. Kari
    April 5, 2010

    BTW, I heard that Clash of the Titans was crap. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

    • ElShowDeJason
      April 5, 2010

      it was a shadow of what it could have been.
      copied the wrong conventions from the wrong contemporary blockbusters.
      A lot of good acting talent was wasted by a director that gave us silly acting.

      Usually throwing as much CGI and british accents as possilbe at a weak scripts makes it good, but script was pretty terrible.

      Don’t go watch it as your first choice, but if you get dragged to it, there is enough cool action scenes, CGI, and british accents for you to enjoy parts of it. Especially if you laugh at the silliness, instead of roll your eyes at it.

      • Kari
        April 5, 2010

        “It was a shadow of what it could have been”

        Man, I hate that! Thanks for the heads-up, ElShowDeJason, I keep that in mind.

        • stephen
          April 5, 2010

          Effects are freaking great. Screw the story line, i mean sun gods and lords of the freaking underworld is pretty hilarious already.

  18. Shobo
    April 5, 2010

    My projected arsenal lineup is:

    Sagna – Campbell – Vermaelen – Clichy

    Diaby – Denilson -Nasri

    Walcott – Bendtner – Rosicky

    However, Eboue might start in favor of Sagna.

    • Kxevin
      April 5, 2010

      Given the effectiveness of Eboue last week, it would be difficult to imagine that he won’t be starting. Isn’t Campbell out, or is he still in the “doubt” category?

      • Shobo
        April 5, 2010

        There are doubts over Cambell’s ability to play 2 matches a week (he’s 35). As such, Silvestre might start.

        Eboue is generally better getting forward than Sagna, he’s more direct, runs at the full backs and cuts inside, a good dribbler too but he goes down far too easily. He also partners Walcott really well. Usually if we’re going for all out attack, Eboue starts.

        Sagna is more defensively stable though, and Wenger might start with him and make the change for Eboue should we still need to score as the game wears on.

  19. Rohanv
    April 5, 2010

    Was expecting an awesome “Release the Kraken” caption for a Yaya photo, now that we know he’s available.

    • Eklavya
      April 5, 2010

      Awesome idea! 😀 You get a hude +1 thumbs up for that 😀

    • April 5, 2010

      I thought of going that route (though not that specific idea because I shelved the idea without too much thought) and perhaps I should have. It would have been great.

  20. Kirsten-SA
    April 5, 2010

    i know u lot diss bs.com so much, but i found a nice piece on Xavi and i know you’ll all agree with it.

    “Barca’s midfield maestro has already well established himself as the best midfielder in the world. As much as Arsenal fans are charmed by Cesc Fabregas, as much as Chelsea fans cherish Frank Lampard, Liverpool fans worship Steven Gerrard and Real Madrid fans believing Kaka will return to his best again one day, none can compare to Xavi.

    The 30-year-olds’ qualities are world renowned and the things that he’s doing on the pitch will one day be written into every textbook and distributed to every footballing academy: his extra-terrestrial vision, his ability to weight a pass as light as a feather or as sharp as a dagger, his close control of the ball, the way he swivels past opponents to shield the ball… all of which will one day become the stuff of legend.”

    • Bojan
      April 5, 2010

      wow, that brings tears to my eyes. he will be legend, and i love him he is my idol. to weight a pass as light as a feather or as sharp as a dagger….. wow! i bet xavi will play for 5 more years definatly

  21. Nick
    April 5, 2010

    Starting Marquez is a disaster waiting to happen. Hope I’m wrong.

    P.S. Isaiah, Arshavin is Andrey, not Andriy (the latter is Ukrainian).

    • April 5, 2010

      Ah, my bad. I got confused between the Andrei and Andrey and ended up making neither. Awesome.

    • Vj
      April 5, 2010

      You mean there is an Andriy Arshavin who plays for Ukraine? 😛

      Sorry, I apologise if I come across as making fun of you.. I’m not.. just had to make that one.. Going out on a high..

      • Nick
        April 5, 2010

        The one Andriy everyone knows is Shevchenko. 😉

  22. Tyler
    April 5, 2010

    this is the week we have been waiting for! we have passed every test so far, and now our season truly comes down to these next two games. guardiola says el clasico doesn’t determine la liga, i’m not buying it. regardless of the points, if we win it will be a statement: spend all you want, you can’t buy a TEAM! despite what some of our arsenal counterparts might purport, just because we can’t be in barcelona tomorrow doesn’t make us any less of true fans. we are BARCA, we are MES QUE UN CLUB! Cules across the world the time is now to support this team in any way possible. Let’s do this!

    • Bojan
      April 5, 2010

      Amen, I am with all of you guys! We should definatly get together and watch some game together over a beer. Oh wait! i am like 12 000 km away from US. but anyway its the Barca that brings us together. Visca La Barca para siempre

  23. Pyro
    April 5, 2010

    All I have to say is, In PEP I Trust and Visca el Barca, I know if we play as a squad, we can face any adversities thrown at us.

  24. Pyro
    April 5, 2010

    Sports says Iniesta is back. He received the medical ok, I expect him to start from the bench

  25. ElShowDeJason
    April 5, 2010

    I’m still nervous as hell for tomorrow. I don’t think i’m going to go to work. I don’t think I would be functional. I’d be an unfocused, gittety, clumsy nervous mess.
    And I strongly doubt i’ll be anywhere in the vicinity of sober from minute 30 on (regardless of a win, draw or loss). Shit, i might not be by kick-off…
    I know we can pass Arsenal off the face of the earth, and beat them convincingly. And I know that we can go into battle with Madrid and come out victors.
    But I would be SOOO much more confident if we had Ibrahimovic and Iniesta at 100%, if at all.
    I keep trying to think of ANYTHING other than football, but obviously failing miserably considering which website I am currently typing on.

    But i must remind myself, I can only do so much. So tomorrow, I will have a Barcelona Jersey on my body, a Beer in my hand, and a prayer in my heart.
    It’s time to prove we are the best. Lets get it done.
    Visca el Barca!

    • stephen
      April 5, 2010

      Im with you ! I think this blog and barça prevent my homework doing all the time. Worth it though !

  26. cliveee
    April 5, 2010

    I’d rather start Fontas than Marquez. Very harsh to Marquez, but Fontas is always my favorite youth and has displayed some very good stuff when he was called upon. But I still believe Pep won’t risk to play a youth in such an important match. so Marquez will start.

    Henry SHOULD start, we need a man up front to lead the line. Although Bojan played one hell of a good game against Bilbao which blew all minds, but there is a good chance that he will flop in big game and become his usual silent little cute dude, running around just about everywhere without impact. Henry has been very inconsistent, that is a fact, but I still highly rate his ability to lead the attack. I am anticipating another epic performance of him against Valencia.

    Abidal will be a joy to watch tomorrow. He will give Walcott a lecture on how to run with the ball without losing it.

    whatever about the injuries, we will kick the crap out of them. 3-0 and we are thru. Messi will score twice. He was angry about being subbed, and will start attacking right from the start.

    • inNYC
      April 5, 2010

      Agreed on Bojan…I’m a fan but even i think it would be a huge roll of the dice to start him. I could see him coming on as a sub, possibly.

  27. vicsoc8
    April 5, 2010

    My preferred lineup:

    Valdes
    Alves – Milito – Yaya – Abidal
    Xavi – Busquets – Keita
    Messi – Bojan – Pedro

    Pedro to play on the right, Keita further left, Messi a free role (but mostly in the middle) and Bojan causing havoc with his speed. The Yaya gets the nod because his physicality will negate Bendtner and because Marquez is too slow (and hasn’t played lately).

    Predicted lineup – the same, replace Yaya with Marquez.

  28. April 5, 2010

    Henry has to start in the center, now that Ibra is not available. Bojan is a quality, but against Arsenal we need to Henry the tactics a bit.

    And I can see Wenger starting Eboue over Walcott.

    • April 5, 2010

      I don’t really think we’ll play a true “9”, but more of a quirky off-balance line that circulates Henry and Bojan around a lot with Messi falling into the hole and wheeling out. But who knows.

      As for Eboue/Walcott, I can’t really claim to know what goes through Wenger’s mind. We’ll find out about that one tomorrow.

      • April 5, 2010

        We never use true 9. What I meant is that we need a Pedro-Henry-Messi more than a Pedro-Bojan-Messi

        Regarding Wenger, I do not know what goes through his mind either, but I am expecting him to be more reasonable and less carried away by the hype of the moment.

  29. majatt
    April 5, 2010

    This really could go either way and clearly I hope we win but with Messi, Alves, Abidal and Xavi on board I feel pretty good.

  30. Kari
    April 5, 2010

    Tomas Rosicky is labelled 50:50 to play the match (they’re just dropping down like flies aren’t they? What the heck is up with their medical team?!)

    *http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/rosicky-rated-as-50-50-for-barcelona-tie

    This is the tackle that supposedly got him injured.

    *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IuXbFRt8GY

    Only England would debate whether this is a red or not. Dude, there are big red cleat marks on his leg!

    • Helge
      April 5, 2010

      Damn, that’s an insane tackle. You cannot blame Arsenal’s medical staff for a possible loss of Tomasz Rosicky. And maybe Wenger is true when he proclaims again and again that Arsenal is getting fouled especially hard and often in the EPL…

      The only player of Arsenal who made some revenge tackles is Sol Campbell. He’s the only one who’s not getting intimidated by brutal play and who sometimes uses a brutal style himself. I hope he doesn’t get too mad if he’s constantly beaten by Messi.

  31. bill
    April 5, 2010

    Hey arsenal, welcome to the home of the “swashbuckling juggernauts”. I’m sure we will oblige to put on a real show for you, not just the preview last week.

  32. Shobo
    April 5, 2010

    Ugh. If the Daily Mail is to be believed, Rosicky is rated at 50/50 to play with a calf injury and Campbell has a groin problem.

    • Kari
      April 5, 2010

      All these injuries can’t just be bad luck (not including Rosicky, that tackle was bad), what’s up with your medical team?!

      • Shobo
        April 5, 2010

        The EPL is a rough mistress. Some folks will tell you Arsenal are a bunch of softies, but the truth is that folks like to try to kick us off our game.

        That said, we do tend to get a stupendous amount of injuries, so much so that Wenger reportedly requested a formal inquiry as to the reasons. We’re none the wiser though!

      • arse
        April 5, 2010

        We play possession football mostly hence the shit teams in the EPL likes to kick our players and roughen them up. Teams like Stoke, Birmingham, Hull City, Bolton, Blackburn etc. Hell the majority of them are pub teams that can’t play football to save their lives hence they play ten men behind the ball and kick lumps out of our players.

        I wish we played in the Spanish League. Referee’s don’t protect the good players in EPL like they do in Europe.

  33. Bojan
    April 5, 2010

    by the way do you know how i can put a picture next to my name when i post something? please i will be very thankful. 🙂

    • Bojan
      April 5, 2010

      yeah right is 6:04pm hahaha its 1:08am here 🙂

      • Kari
        April 5, 2010

        Go to:

        *http://en.gravatar.com/site/signup

        Just follow the instructions. After you enter your email and made your account, choose any image you’d like.

        However, make sure the email you choose is the same email you use when you’re posting comments. If you choose a different email, then it won’t show up.

        • Bojan
          April 5, 2010

          thanks a million Kari. You have a beer of your choice! under my payment of course 😉

          • Kari
            April 5, 2010

            Keep your money, I don’t drink 😛

            No probs, just get a good night sleep. I know it’s hard with the game tomorrow–err, today. 🙂

          • Bojan
            April 5, 2010

            okay, i finished with the gravatar thing now let me check and deifnatly i’ll get some goodnight sleep but still enough hours left till the game. its almost 2:00 here i better get going. wish i was in new york :((((( i am alone fan here with lots of hostiles! almost everyone an inter or milan fan. Idiots! See ya later today guys!

  34. Helge
    April 5, 2010

    2 goals by Bojan? 😀
    If that happens, I’ll declare you as the one and only Barça prophet of the world.

    I’m a lot more nervous about this match than many of you, and I don’t like to read such interviews *http://www.totalbarca.com/2010/news/alves-arsenal-needs-a-miracle/
    It’s not the first time that an active Barça player states how amazing etc. we are. I know that we are, but last season, the players and other staff didn’t articulate it in public. This is a bit too much Real-Madrid-esque, that’s not exactly the mentality and humility that won us a Sextuple…

    • Kari
      April 5, 2010

      Actually Helge, I do think we need a trash-talker and I guess Alves is the man for the job, though to be honest, I don’t really like what he said either. It’s these kind of statements that come back to haunt you.

      It’s all good though, if he walks the walk!

  35. bill
    April 5, 2010

    Did anyone catch this little piece of skill from Xavi at min 1:02? Sweet

    //http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sjmEfM1c88

    • Rohanv
      April 5, 2010

      That video is pure Xavi porn, could sit and watch the little maestro do his work in the midfield all day.

  36. Evil that men do
    April 5, 2010

    Man…. I hope neither Henry or Marquez are allowed anywhere near the field.

    I rather see Iniesta play then Keita, if Toure is fit he def should start at CB.
    A reminder he played in the king cup final/semifinal second leg at Stamford bridge and also the final at CB so he is more then capable of playing there.

    Hopefully Sergi’s mistake in the first leg doesn’t cost Barca qualifying for the semi final.

    • stephen
      April 5, 2010

      You knwo, im with you here… I think Guardiola is going to go with the YAYA in the back if hes fit to play.

  37. stephen
    April 5, 2010

    I know this is a little far fetched but… Im really looking forward to ManU being beaten by Bayern… thats just me. I think the road would be paved for Puyol to give us the best gift of our LIFETIMES… lifting la orejona at the Bernabeu… !!!!!

  38. culehastaelculo
    April 5, 2010

    1. A-PEP-TITO FOR DESTRUCTION

    2. TEDDY RUXPIN WALCOTT, HAVE A TASTE OF BARCA CLASS AND CAMP NOU GRASS

    3. arsene: barca is “art,” pero mi arsene(al) es “pedo”

  39. Phil
    April 6, 2010

    The Yaya will be able to fully focus his destructive forces on this game now that he has destroyed fantasy basketball.

    //http://s8.photobucket.com/albums/a4/corrinffxi/?action=view&current=yayathedestroyer.jpg

    My friends are quite annoyed that I won since I’ve been labeled a “soccer guy”. Since I stole the name from here I wanted to share the victory with you guys :p

  40. Cesc Blanc
    April 6, 2010

    The referee of the game will be Wolfgang Stark. The same guy as in the Chelsea game who for whatever reason doesn’t like teams from Southern Europe. Just saying….

    • Cesc Blanc
      April 6, 2010

      *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Stark

      they should add to that his great game in Camp Nou against Chelsea.

  41. stowe
    April 6, 2010

    great caption on the bojan pictures. i hope the whole team can finish those tonight. thanks for the preview, isaiah

  42. jordi™
    April 6, 2010

    I want to trust Rafa, but I cant shake the image of HLEB out muscling him.On the other Rafa owes us a massive performance after single handedly ruining our goal difference in the league so maybe if he plays he will roll back the years.Id feel better with yaya for obvious reasons though, but IPWT I suppose.

  43. April 6, 2010

    I just watched the first leg again. For some reasons, I can see more positives in Isaiah’s Bojan-Henry-Messi. Not sure yet if it will serve better than Pedro-Henry-Messi, but it has its advantages.

    More injuries for Arsenal. They will play under no pressure. That’s more dangerous than playing them with all their players available. I am sure Pep is picking a sort of gladiator movie to motivate the players. Relax and you will feel the Axe. It’s not won yet.

    • Blow-Grenade
      April 6, 2010

      I think he will pick Avatar this time for motivation. I loved that movie.

  44. Jim
    April 6, 2010

    Bit of a tangent. Just read on the official site that after training the players headed off to Tibidabo. Do they mean the church at the top of the mountain for a bit of sightseeing? If so, is this part of Pep’s firing them up by showing them the city below ? Great views from the statue at the top ( but ever so slightly scary) 🙂

      • Eklavya
        April 6, 2010

        Tibidabo is a Church; Camp Nou is a Cathedral.

    • Cesc Blanc
      April 6, 2010

      The hotel were they stay is in Tibidabo

      • Kxevin
        April 6, 2010

        Once you roll up that rickety-ass funicular to the park, you get religion with the quickness. 😀

  45. Jim
    April 6, 2010

    For any sake, don’t let Leo lean over. . . . . It’s a pretty low balcony up there.

      • Blow-Grenade
        April 6, 2010

        Yep it was built with the mighty midgets in mind. Zlatan has to take care. But Pique will be there to stop him from leaning over.

  46. Kxevin
    April 6, 2010

    In an example of missing the boat, Wenger said that he doesn’t understand why the Spanish media criticized Henry, the reception was lovely, blah, blah, blah.

    As I would explain to Mr. Wenger were he here, had Henry gotten that rapturous reception, then rolled out and played like a man, nobody would be saying a thing. But that didn’t happen. He played like a star-struck kid, with the exception of that first run of his that really didn’t have a chance at amounting to anything.

    Do we have to explain everything?

  47. Kari
    April 6, 2010

    Emmanuel Petit says Arsenal can beat us (uh, of course they can) and that they [Arsenal] have nothing to lose (only the CL, dude)

    *http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/a/arsenal/8602735.stm

    Some interesting statistics and he makes some good points, but this takes all credibilty away from what he was trying saying:

    “The likes of Lionel Messi and Pedro won’t defend, so a lot of space will be created on the wings. That’s where Arsenal have to play. ”

    Funny he says that when this article from Sid Lowe (brilliant btw) says:

    “The back four must build – Barcelona’s first three goals against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday were created by full-backs – and the front three must destroy. Lionel Messi has committed as many fouls as Puyol; Pedro and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have committed more.”

    *http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2010/apr/06/barcelona-arsenal-champions-league

    • Blow-Grenade
      April 6, 2010

      Kari,
      You’re at it again. Tearing the English commentators apart. Keep it up!!!!

    • April 6, 2010

      It’s such a common misconception that our forward line doesn’t defend that I just ignore anyone who comes up with that idea. There are players that defend more than others, but Messi isn’t one of those that slacks off on his defensive duty.

      Neither is Pedro, but Henry does it better because he knows more of the game. Pedro is just a workhorse who is currently unrefined in a lot of ways. A diamond in the rough, you could say. Either way, Petit is wrong.

  48. cliveee
    April 6, 2010

    i.just.can’t.wait.to.kick.their.asses.period.

    • Kari
      April 6, 2010

      I really hope so. But a wounded animal is a dangerous one. We should be a little cautious; Arsenal play best when no-one expects anything from them. This coupled with the fact the English media have decided to acknowledge our existance means they are praising us now (it’s still odd) when we were even better last year, means we shouldn’t let our guards down….

      …is what Pep and Andres are saying (and I agree). Let’s do the business today!

  49. Blow-Grenade
    April 6, 2010

    OK people,
    here’s the predicted lineup:

    ===Valdes – aka manwall==
    Alves Yaya Milito Abidal
    Xavi Busi Keita
    Messi Bojan Iniesta

    I think one of either Busi or Keita will do the box crashing thing to provide height to connect with Alves crosses.

  50. April 6, 2010

    Here’s another one of the iReports Isaiah mentioned before the match last week.

    The correspondent was late getting it to Isaiah, so he was humbly commanded to post it here.

    http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-429418

    it’s amateur, but take a look if interested.

  51. ermengol
    April 6, 2010

    good piece by jon wilson (Inverting the Triangle) in the grauniad:

    “That is one of the reasons Barça’s pressing is so awesome; with the full-backs pushed on, their system often appears as, effectively, a 2-5-3. To press with so many so high is a gamble, but one that has tended to be effective. Florent Malouda’s performance against Alves in the second leg of the semi-final last year is an indication of what happens when the gamble fails and Barça do not control possession.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2010/apr/06/question-pressing-crucial-modern-game

  52. ermengol
    April 6, 2010

    * Inverting the Pyramid, of course. sorry.

  53. majatt
    April 6, 2010

    FCB-Arsenal: LINE UPS / ALINEACIÓ / ALINEACIÓN: Valdés, Alves, Márquez, Milito, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Keita, Messi, Bojan and Pedro.

  54. November 22, 2010

    Hello dude , good submit and I truly do enjoy mistress and power of dominion thank you and submit much more!

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