Can Arsenal Win In Barcelona?

Well, who’d have predicted victories for both Arsenal and Spurs in the Champions League at the beginning of this week?

It’s easy to be wise after the event and regret not putting money on the games, but with two weeks to go before the return legs it’s worth taking a look at what might happen – as well as taking advantage of any free bets that might be available.

Of the second leg ties involving the North London rivals, Arsenal’s trip to Barcelona looks the more difficult one. The excitement of a stirring come from behind victory against arguably the best club in the world at the Emirates was only tempered by David Villa’s away goal and Barcelona’s formidable record at home. 

The blaugrana have only lost twice in their last 20 Champions League games at Nou Camp and once in their last ten home games in the competition against English clubs in the Catalan capital – a 2-1 defeat by Liverpool in Feb 2007.

On the other hand, Arsenal do not travel well in the Champions League. The Gunners have only recorded six away wins in their last 20 away games in the competition and have only won one of their last five trips to Spain – a single goal victory against Real Madrid six years ago.

The following evening Milan – without Renato Gattuso – travel to White Hart Lane. We only have this season’s form in the Champions League to judge Spurs on but as they’ve won all four games at home in the competition this season then it’s reasonable to assume that they might not lose  – which increases when you look at Milan’s recent away record in the competition.

The only victory the rossoneri  managed  in the group stage was at a poor Auxerre side: additionally, Milan have only one win in their last eight away games versus British opposition. The current Serie A leaders need to score to stand any chance of qualifying, but once again they don’t have a great record, having failed to score in three of their last five away games against British sides.

It’d be great if both Arsenal and Spurs reached the next round, but however unlikely that prospect may look, we won’t know until the final whistle blows at White Hart Lane in a few weeks time.

Champions League Draw

The draw for the first knockout round has just been made in Switzerland and this is how it looks for the English clubs:

AC Milan v Spurs

Arsenal v Barcelona

Olympique Marseille v Manchester United

FC Copenhagen v Chelsea

On paper, it looks as if Chelsea have the ‘easiest’ tie, but Copenhagen are unbeaten in the league and eliminated Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos in the Group Stage. Manchester United shouldn’t have too much trouble with Marseille, who are currently four points behind surprise leaders OSC Lille in Ligue 1 and have only won three of their eight away games in the league this season.

It’s not looking too good for either Spurs or Arsenal though – AC Milan are six points clear in Serie A and are currently on a seven game unbeaten streak in the league, although it’s probably worth pointing out that they lost 2-0 to Ajax in the last group game and Italian football isn’t what it used to be.

Barcelona are arguably the one side nobody wanted, once again they look unbeatable at the Camp Nou and if the Gunners aren’t at their absolute best they may find themselves watching the latter stages at home.

Of the other ties, the most interesting one is the repeat of last season’s final – Bayern Munich’s form in the Bundesliga has been patchy at best this season, so they seem to have devoted the rest of the season to the Champions League. The same can be said of Inter, but Rafa Benitez is under a lot of pressure at the moment and might not even be manager by the time these clubs meet.

If you fancy a punt on any of our teams, the best price for Chelsea is 5/1. Arsenal are currently available at 25/1, but – not surprisingly –  the bookies favourites are Barcelona at 9/4.

I’ll update the post with the Europa League games when I’ve got the details.

Everyone Through!

All four English clubs reached the knockout stage of the Champions League: although Chelsea were beaten in France and it took Arsenal longer than it should have done to put their game against Partizan Belgrade to bed, they join Manchester United and Spurs in the draw for the ’round of sixteen’ (the eighth finals in old money) which takes place on Friday 17th at 11:00am GMT.

Joining them will be some familiar names: both Milan clubs and Roma from Italy, Barcelona, Valencia and Real Madrid from Spain, Germany’s Bayern Munich and Schalke 04 plus Les Olympiques (Marseille and Lyon) from France. Last – and by no means least – Shaktyar Donetsk (Ukraine) and FC Copenhagen (Denmark) will be joining the teams from the traditional European powerhouses. FC Copenhagen deserve a special mention as they’re the first Danish club to reach this stage.

That’s the easy bit. The arrangements for the draw are less straightforward: our clubs can’t play each other or teams from their group in the next round, so the list of potential opponents looks like this:

Spurs – Lyon, Valencia, Copenhagen, Roma, Marseille or Milan

Manchester United – Inter Milan, Lyon, Copenhagen, Roma, Marseille or Milan

Chelsea – Inter Milan, Lyon, Valencia, Copenhagen, Roma or Milan

Arsenal – Schalke, Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.

No disrespect to either club intended, but given their current position in the Bundesliga, Arsenal are probably hoping that they’re drawn with Schalke. Similar kind of situation with FC Copenhagen – having come second in Barcelona’s group, all eight teams they could face in the next round have won silverware in European competitions.

All the clubs from the Netherlands, Portugal and Russia have now been eliminated from the Champions League, although they’ll be taking part in the next stage of the Europa League.

So just to recap, Premiership 4, Russian Premier League 0.

Arsenal Have It All To Do

After last week’s travesty, I’m hoping that one of our clubs will be able to do the business in the Champions League this season – an English club winning the tournament at Wembley would be one in the eye for you know and his cronies. Three out of four of our clubs are currently through and it’s up to Arsenal tomorrow night to make it a clean sweep. 


Manchester United v Valencia (Sky Sports 2, 7:45pm)

Both teams are through, but the group winner would avoid some of the nastier options in the first knockout round.

United’s first team has had a nice long rest, as it’s been almost two weeks since they hammered Blackburn Rovers 7-1; Michael Owen was due to make an appearance but was ruled out yesterday. Valencia lost 2-0 at Real Madridat the weekend and haven’t won an away game in La Liga since they beat Sporting Gijon at the end of September.

Twente Enschede v Spurs (Sky Sports 4, 7:45pm)

The hosts are joint top with PSV Eindhoven in the Eredivisie after two Theo Janssen goals gave them a win over De Graafschaap on Saturday: Spurs looked as if they were going to win at Birmingham but Craig Gardnerscored the equaliser with ten minutes left. Harry Redknapp’s team would win the group with three points in Holland, but the last time Spurs played an away game in the Premiership on Saturday and then travelled for a Champions League game they drew both of them. Without Rafael van der Vaart and Jermaine Jenas the same thing could happen again.


Arsenal v Partizan Belgrade (ITV, 7:45pm)

Top of the Premiership against top of the Serbian Superliga – which is basically saying top of one of the best – if not the best – leagues in Europe against the leaders in the 27th best competition…and those are UEFA’s numbers, not mine.

Partizan went five points clear at the top with a 5-2 win over Sevojno (no, I’d never heard of them either) – they were 4-0 up after half an hour. By all accounts the Gunners had to grind it out at Fulham and this is a game they’ve got to win as they’re three points behind Shaktyar Donetsk but level with Sporting Braga.

Fortunately for Arsene’s boys, Braga have to travel to the Ukraine and their away form has been awful this season – they lost 3-1 at Uniao de Leiria on Saturday evening and had three players sent off.

 Marseille v Chelsea (Sky Sports 2, 7:45pm)

After their recent return to pre-Abramovic form, Chelsea will be pleased they’re already through to the knockout stages – the odds are in Marseille’s favour to qualify with them, but although L’OM lost 1-0 at Nice at the weekend, they’re currently on a seven game unbeaten streak at the Stade Velodrome.

And here’s a good bit of trivia for you to amaze your friends with: Gareth Bale has scored more goals in the competition than Cristiano Ronaldo.