BARCELONA - ARSENAL

Barça out to finish the job

Barcelona, who are now 36 games unbeaten in all competitions, are looking to end any hopes of an Arsenal comeback swiftly at Camp Nou.

Barça out to finish the job
Carl Recine REUTERS

Barcelona are 90 minutes away from achieving their ninth successive Champions League quarterfinal. Luis Enrique’s side go into Wednesday night’s match at Camp Nou in spectacular form, quite the opposite to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, who have been knocked out of the FA Cup and seen their Premier League title challenge shot down in recent weeks. Europe is the last redoubt for Wenger, much as it is for Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid.

The 2-0 victory chalked up by Barça at the Emirates Stadium will require a Herculean effort by Arsenal to redress, while for the home side the job is there to be finished.

Arsenal have little option to go for it from the outset in Camp Nou, a state of affairs that will suit Barcelona down to the ground. The home side, who are unbeaten in 37 matches in all competitions and on a run of nine consecutive Champions League victories at home, could fall into the trap of complacency given their current form and the visiting side’s lengthy injury list, couple with the two-goal cushion from the first leg. That is the principle handicap the home side face, although Luis Enrique will not allow the merest hint of relaxation. Barcelona have three trophies remaining open to them and their immediate concern is to ensure that their name is in the draw for the quarterfinals in Nyon on Friday after laying down a gauntlet to the rest of Europe through their performance on Wednesday.

Enrique named his full complement of players for the match and will send out his strongest 11, other than the suspended Gerard Piqué and with cup keeper Marc-André Ter Stegen in goal. The likeliest replacement for Piqué, due to his height and speed, is Jérémy Mathieu, who will add a bit of strength to the back line to face Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck, who both pose a serious threat in the air.

Arsenal have plenty of injury concerns of their own, starting with first choice keeper Petr Cech, who has proved to be an immovable object on previous visits to Camp Nou with Chelsea. Joining the Czech on the sidelines are Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky, Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere. It seems too much weight for Arsenal to pull off a miracle.