Champion’s League back in full effect today.
The clear undercard? That would be Shahktar Donetsk vs. AS Roma. A clash of styles more than anything else. Roma lost serve at home, 3-2, and now heads to Donbass Arena where Shahktar has not lost since the building opened in 2009. Quite a feat for the Tottis to overcome.
The marquee match-up, or at least the one that always has the Euro press drooling? That’s of course the battle of the so-called “beautiful game” as possession-oriented squads Arsenal and Barcelona face-off.
The Nou campers went to the Emirates and poked and prodded till they got the lead in the first stanza a few weeks back, but after halftime it was all Arsenal as the home side fired back twice to take the leg on the back of some shoddy Barca defending.
Ahead of the clash today, confusion over just who is healthy. Jack Wilshere, who Pep Guardiola complimented, not insulted yesterday, should be in play after an ankle injury over the weekend against who else but Sunderland. For the visitors, they should have Robin Van Persie, but critical components Theo Walcott and Alexander Song (perhaps a bigger loss on the road) are out.
The Barca squad is discounted by the dropping of their first choice centerbacks in Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique.
What will be fascinating to watch in this one is the tempo and game plan of Arsenal out of the gates.
With a one-goal lead do they potentially sit-back against a Barca side they know can find their way through over the course of the game? Or, with Barca’s ideal central defense pairing out, do they attack and keep pressure on, but risk opening up their own youthful central defense (and questionable goalie)?
The first 15 minutes in this one, very interesting.
Key player in this affair for TSG? Samir Nasri. The quick-footed Arsenal winger didn’t necessarily have the best game out at the Emirates. He’s the type of player who, when hot, forces other teams to be aware of him at all times….and he plays defense. If Nasri can be dangerous on the ball and force Barcelona to more wary than usual then the ripple effect of Dani Alves getting forward and Messi wandering into the middle might be disrupted.