Arsenal face an enormous task to advance to the quarter-finals of this year’s Champions League as the Premier League outfit attempt to overturn a two-goal deficit when they visit the Nou Camp to take on FC Barcelona in their last-16 second-leg on Wednesday night.
The Gunners, who lost the first-leg 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium last month thanks to two strikes from Lionel Messi in the final 20 minutes, have to score at least twice at the La Liga giants’ home if they have any hope of progressing into the last-eight.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has recently come under huge criticism following the club’s free-falling pursuit of silverware this season, with Sunday’s latest 2-1 defeat to Watford knocking his side out of the FA Cup – a competition the Gunners have lifted in back-to-back campaigns (2014 and 2015).
Meanwhile Luis Enrique’s Barca are bidding to become the first team to retain the Champions League trophy since the old European Cup was rebranded back in 1992.
The home side; who are currently enduring an incredible 37-game unbeaten run, plus having won their last eight meetings in all competitions on the bounce, are the overwhelming favourites to reach the quarter-finals on Wednesday.
To put it in perspective; Arsenal must achieve a feat last accomplished in the European Cup back in 1969 if they are to miraculously knockout the defending European champions.
It is not since Eredivisie outfit Ajax overturned the odds against Benfica have a side performed such a turnaround.
The Gunners’ Catalan opponents have reached at least the semi-finals of this competition in seven of their last eight attempts and have won the trophy in four of the last 10 campaigns.
Barcelona’s lethal trio of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar already have 103 goals between them so far this season, so Arsenal will have to do the almost impossible and keep a clean sheet against the Spanish side’s formidable frontline if they stand any chance of progressing.
Gunners defender Laurent Koscielny (Calf) is expected to return for the visitors as Arsenal attempt to overturn a two-goal deficit inside the Nou Camp. However fellow centre-halves Gabriel and Per Mertesacker are on standby to continue their partnership in the heart of defence.
Elsewhere; boss Wenger will be forced into several changes from the starting XI that faced Barca in their first-leg clash last month since Petr Cech (Calf), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Knee) and Aaron Ramsey (Thigh) have all been sidelined through injury.
Meanwhile Barcelona will be without defender Gerard Pique after he picked up a one-game ban in the dying minutes at the Emirates Stadium.
But manager Enrique is expected to field Messi, Suarez and Neymar up front for the La Liga giants.
Group Position: Barcelona – 1st (Group E), 14 pts; Arsenal – 2nd (Group F)
Previous Meeting: Arsenal 0-2 Barcelona – February 23, 2016
Key Men: Barcelona – Lionel Messi; Arsenal – Alexis Sanchez
Form: Barcelona – WWWWWW; Arsenal – LLLDWL;
Shoot Says: Barcelona 3-0 Arsenal