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Monday, December 20, 2010

Arsenal get worst possible draw

It was perhaps inevitable, so much so that even Arsene Wenger called it. Arsenal will indeed play Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League.

It is the harshest possible punishment for slipping up against Braga and Shaktar in the group stages, two results that caused them to be the only English side to go through as group runners-up. That, of course, limited the choice of sides the Gunners could face in the next round, with the intimidating trio of Barca, Real Madrid and Bayern lurking in the pot. The Champions League specials suggested any of these games would be a challenge.

A tie against Bundesliga outfit Schalke would have been the best they could have hoped for - though Wenger refused to admit that in a press conference this week, choosing instead to praise Barca, perhaps in the knowledge that it was almost inevitable they would be paired together again.

For the neutral it is the tie of the round. When the two sides clashed at the quarter-final stage last season they produced two memorable matches. The first leg at the Emirates saw Barca dominate the early stages, playing wonderful possession football.

The game looked wrapped up when Zlatan Ibrahimovic put them 2-0 up but a late comeback saw Arsenal escape with a 2-2 draw.

The second leg was all about one man - Lionel Messi. The diminutive Argentinean was in scintillating form at the Nou Camp and almost singlehandedly dismantled Arsenal, grabbing all four goals in a comprehensive 4-1 victory.

Barca would go on to fall at the hands of Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan in the semi-final but such is their form this season - a 5-0 rout of Real Madrid being the highlight - they have been deservedly labelled 'super favourites' for the competition and as you may expect the Champions League predictions reflect this.

Arsenal will be up against it if they want to make it to the last eight this season.

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