Arsenal was drawn on Friday against the title holders, Barcelona, in the Champions League quarterfinals. Incredibly, it did not feel like a surprise to be picked against the Spanish giants and it almost seemed destined to happen. The fixture is a repeat of the 2006 final which saw the Gunners fall apart 10 minutes from the victory to eventually lose 2-1. I am sure other Arsenal fans who remember the epic match will agree with me that the draw felt somewhat preordained. It was in fact the one matchup Dominic Vieira managed to anticipate correctly at afootballreport.
The draw is definitely not an easy one, arguably the most difficult for that matter, as Barcelona are considered by many to be massive favorites to win the competition. I still believe that Arsenal have the capacity to create an upset. Wenger’s team is in a great run of form, with 6 consecutive victories in the League and are going in this two-legged tie as underdogs, which is not such a bad thing. The match itself however is not just about getting into the semifinals of the most prestigious cup of club football. What will be at stake on April 6th at Camp Nou, makes this in my opinion Arsenal’s most important match of the year.
Arsenal’s loss in the final, back in 2006, was not only devastating for fans because they missed a chance on winning the Champion’s League for the first time in their history, but also because it was a major reason why the King…the legend…Thierry Henry, left the following season to the Catalan club. You could argue that if Arsenal had won, Henry would not have felt the need to go away, seeking to win the precious Champion’s League Cup, the only silverware that he didn’t have in his collection at the time.
The situation will be very similar in two weeks. 22 year-old Spaniard and Arsenal’s top scorer this season, Cesc Fabregas, may be what the two teams end up playing for that night. Fabregas arrived in London at 16 from Barcelona’s youth team, where he played alongside other kids - you might have heard of them - Lionel Messi and Gerard Piqué, now stars at Barça. The midfielder has now developed into a leading figure at Arsenal as he is the team’s captain and a Fab-ulous playmaker. The Gunners have relied on him quite heavily this season and there is definitely a lapse in performance when he is injured.
Discerning himself as one of the best players of the Premier League, there has been increased speculation from Barcelona, hinting that they will attempt to sign him in the next transfer window. Barcelona Presidents, who are elected, have used his name in the club’s politics many times, promising that they would bring him back as a bargain to gain votes. Fellow midfielder and Spain international teammate Xavi has also spoken out recently, declaring that he wanted to play alongside Fabregas at Barcelona, who, he said, had “Barça DNA”.
There is no doubt that Cesc will one day move back to Spain (he even said so himself!), however I believe that a loss to Barcelona this year, would make it happen sooner rather than later.
Another reason to fight and set the record straight Arsenal!