Monday, March 7, 2011

Arsenal in the Nou Camp cauldron

Chelsea expectedly won without much sweat against Blackpool for an easy winning recommendation.

Tomorrow Tuesday, the focus is on the return match between Barcelona and Arsenal. Were it not for 5 minutes of madness in the first leg, the Catalans should already have sealed their qualification for the next stage. They actually overwhelmingly deserved to win that match and were on course to do so until Arsenal capitalized on 2 rare counter-attacks. The reality though is that Barcelona now need to put a dominating display to overcome the first-leg deficit. Rewind last year, and Barcelona were in an almost similar situation against Inter and came up short. This time, they only have 1 goal to overcome, and most importantly, they play an Arsenal team that has a lot of breaches in its defence. The negatives for Barcelona are as follows: absence of their coach Guardiola for the past week, and absence of their first-choice centre-backs in Pique and most certainly Puyol. On the other hand, Arsenal will miss one of their best offensive weapons in Walcott, and Fabregas and Van Persie are not sure to be at 100% if they succeed in making it to the game.

If Arsenal score first, it will put an unprecedented pressure on the hosts, and radically change the context of the game. The expectation will be for Barcelona to open the scoring and thus the game completely. I just cannot see Arsenal winning over there if Van Persie and Fabregas fail to play. Even if they do, the Barcelona forwards will find ways to open up the Gunners defence. Arsenal could score over there, but in the end they will be outscored. I recommend Barcelona as a draw-no-bet.

Draw-no-bet: Barcelona

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