By Ollie Irish
1. Theo Walcott’s pace
“It may be really good for him to run 100m in a little over 10 seconds, but the aim is to get to the goal. We’ll wait there for him and we’ll see what he can do with the ball – let’s see if he can get past four defenders.” Barca left-back Eric Abidal on Arsenal speed demon Theo Walcott.
I have to side with Abidal here. Walcott made a massive impact in the first leg, but mostly because a) he had nothing to lose (so no nerves) and b) he was facing tired opponents. This time he’ll play from the start – or so most people assume – and Barca won’t get fooled again. I predict Walcott will have little say on the tie.
2. Sol Campbell’s turning circle
As Alex Song has groin and knee injuries, Big Sol (or Silvestre?) may be wheeled out to face an attacking trio of Bojan Krkic, Pedro and Lionel Messi. As impressive as Campbell has been in his second stint, why do I have the mental image of a Wildebeest being attacked by three young leopards?
3. Lionel Messi’s genius
After a dynamite start, the boy wonder was pretty quiet at the Grove, so can he step up in the second leg? Leo hasn’t exactly dazzled in the past against English opponents, and with Zlatan out injured, he needs a big game. I think he’ll provide it.
4. Pique and Puyol’s deputies
Arsenal’s one chink of light is at the heart of Barca’s defence, where there will be Pique- and Puyol-shaped holes. Rafael Marquez (pictured) and Gabriel Milito are set to deputise at the back, and whilst they’re not as good as P&P, neither are they nervous rookies. Walcott on the veteran Marquez is a one-on-one that Arsenal must look for as much as possible.
5. Nicklas Bendtner’s shooting boots
No Van Persie, no Fabregas, no Gallas, no Arshavin. As it was against Wolves at the weekend, so Arsenal might have to rely on Bendtner’s newfound match-winning skills. The Dane has been wildly unpredictable in front of goal this season but he is developing an ability to score when it really matters. And you know he won’t be overawed.
Praying won’t help Arsenal
6. Barca’s two away goals
The head screams: Barca will sweep aside a woefully under-strength Arsenal, surely. But then the Catalans should have won 8-2 in the first leg, so nothing is guaranteed. However, we shouldn’t forget that Barca need only draw 0-0 or 1-1 to progress, and given the outstanding ability in their team, and Arsenal’s injury crisis, I just can’t see another miracle comeback. So this time my head and heart are aligned – I think the Catalans will win very easily.
Prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal (5-3 agg)
How do you see it?