Strongest Arsenal XI To Face Barcelona
Arsenal will restart their Champions League campaign on Tuesday against the defending champions Barcelona at the Emirates stadium. After failing to win their first two matches, the Gunners managed to scrape through to the knockout phase on match day six behind Bayern Munich. They go into this match on the back of a goalless draw against Hull City in the FA Cup on Saturday. Arsene Wenger has most of the troops fit for this clash except long-term absentees like Wilshere, Rosicky and Cazorla. Every Arsenal players will his top game come Tuesday if they want to have any chance of qualifying for the next round.
Goalkeeper: Petr Cech
Wenger’s experiment of starting with Ospina for the Champions League group games failed miserably in the first game itself, hence, Cech will keep his place in the starting XI between the sticks. He will have his hands full against the most formidable attacking trio in the world.
Defenders: Mertesacker, Koscielny, Nacho Monreal and Bellerin
The manager is likely to stick with the back four that has started most of the games this season. This means Bellerin and Monreal as full-backs. While Bellerin has suffered a slight dip in form recently, the Spaniard on the other hand, is getting better with each passing day. Koscielny and Mertesacker will continue their partnership in the middle of the back four, especially given the doubts around the fitness of Paulista. Mertesacker’s lack of pace will be a cause of worry against the pace of Neymar and Messi but his experience and positional sense should come in handy while dealing with Barcelona’s attacking threat.
Midfielders: Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Coquelin and Theo Walcott
With the Barcelona game in mind, Wenger made 9 changes to the Arsenal starting eleven in the game against Hull City. Both Ramsey and Coquelin who were rested on Saturday should start together in central midfield. They will need to be switched on and work hard to protect the back four, one lapse in concentration could prove very costly. Upfront the creative responsibility will be in the hands on Mesut Ozil who already has 17 assists in this Premier League season alone. He was bought by Arsenal for big matches like these and this is the perfect chance for him to silence all those critics who have criticised him in the past. Sanchez will be a threat to Barca defence with his mazy runs from the left wing while Walcott will try to exploit the slow Catalan defenders with his raw pace from the right side.
Forward: Olivier Giroud
Though Welbeck started the game against Hull City, one feels Wenger will go with the Giroud for this one and keep the Englishman on the bench. Giroud is struggling to find the back of the net right now but his physical presence up front will be vital when pushing forward or releasing tension from the back.