FC Barcelona v Arsenal: A quarter to nine

Neymar put Barça on top, 1–0, in the 18th minute. / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Barça top Arsenal 3–1 (5–1 aggregate) to sew up a berth in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the ninth straight season

We can now add Arsenal FC — not to mention a cold, steady rainfall — to the litany of obstacles unable to impede FC Barcelona.

With virtually every seat under cover spoken for and with scattered blotches of fans clad in thin plastic ponchos huddled together elsewhere in an attempt to stay warm and dry, goals from Neymar, Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi were more than enough to knock Arsenal out of the UEFA Champions League on a wet and chilly night at Camp Nou.

Neymar gave Barça a 1–0 lead in the 18th minute before Arsenal drew level shortly after the half. But with the Gunners pushing hard to make things interesting, Suárez put FCB back on top in 65th to dash the Londoners’ hopes.

Messi closed out the scoring with a quintessential chip in over the goalkeeper’s head in the 88th minute.

The triumph qualifies Barça for the tournament’s quarter-final round for the ninth consecutive season. It is also their ninth straight victory across all competitions, and it brings their overall unbeaten streak to 38 games.

The Blaugranes remain undefeated in the Champions League this season.

This is the third time FC Barcelona have bounced Arsenal from Europe’s top competition, after previously doing so in 2010 and 2011.

Barça took a 1–0 lead in the 18th minute when Luis Suárez astutely used Messi as a decoy and split three defenders with a perfectly timed through ball to the cutting Neymar, who calmly slotted in to hand Barça the early advantage.

One minute earlier Messi had sneaked behind a pair of defender to deftly haul in a low-arcing chip pass from Neymar but was stoned in the mano a mano by Gunner goalkeeper David Ospina.

Arsenal’s chances were few and feeble in the first half hour, among them a trio of innocuous, long-range shots from Mesut Ozil, Mohamed Elneny and Mathieu Flamini — each one coming from further out than the last — which were all off target.

Former Barça striker Alexis Sánchez let an excellent chance slip away in the 40th when he nodded wide from the six-yard box.

With the second half underway and then away goals rule dictating Arsenal would need three goals to go through, the atmosphere was subdued.

In the 51st the ambience suddenly became much livelier when Elneny drew Arsenal level when he took a pass from Alexis and one-timed past Ter Stegen from the edge of the penalty area. The shot appeared to partially deflect off the back of Barça midfielder Sergio Busquets, thus altering the ball’s trajectory.

With the temperature steadily dropping, and every Arsenal foray into the Barça area eliciting a symphony of nervous oohs and ahhs, Suárez went top shelf to put Barça back on top, 2–1 in the 65th minute, applying a textbook side-volley to a precision cross by Dani Alves.

With Arsenal abruptly back to square one and in need of three more goals to stay alive in the tournament, Barça’s water resistant, clockwork ball-control made sure it was just a matter of time.

Then Messi chimed in and it was all over.

Ninth Champions League quarter-final in a row

Alves, Neymar and Messi celebrating a goal against Arsenal / Miguel Ruiz-FCB
FC Barcelona knock out Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal side to make it to the last eight as their pursuit of a sixth title continues

Another Champions League season and another place in the last eight for FC Barcelona who have now reached the quarter-finals after knocking out Arsenal XXX on aggregate over two legs in the round of 16. In the two previous campaigns Barça had knocked out Manchester City at the same stage of the competition. Before that their victims during this impressive run had been AC Milan, Bayer Leverkusen, Arsenal again, Stuttgart, Oympique Lyonnnais and Celtic.

BARÇA’S RECORD IN THE LAST FEW SEASONS
SEASON STAGE RIVAL AGGREGATE
2006/07 last 16 Liverpool 2-2
2007/08 Semi-finals Manchester United 0-1
2008/09 Final Manchester United    2-0 *
2009/10 Semi-finals Inter 2-3
2010/11 Final Manchester United    3-1 *
2011/12 Semi-finals Chelsea 2-3
2012/13 Semi-finals Bayern Munich 0-7
2013/14 Quarter-finals Atlètico Madrid 1-2
2014/15 Final Juventus 3-1
2015/16 ? ? ?

* Barça won the Champions League

Match Preview: FC Barcelona v Arsenal

Barça's front three have been in frightening form this season / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
With a two-goal advantage in hand from the first leg, the Catalans are looking to seal their place in the Champions League quarter-finals for a ninth consecutive season

FC Barcelona host Arsenal for the second leg of the Champions League last-16 tie at Camp Nou on Wednesday (kick off 8.45pm CET) with the Catalans holding a 2-0 advantage from the first match.

Team news

The main team news from the home camp is Gerard Pique’s suspension following his yellow card in London. As far as injuries go however, Luis Enrique has no new concerns heading into the second leg. Only youngsters Rafinha and Sandro Ramirez  remain sidelined while Masip, Douglas and Adriano failed to make the cut.

Arda Turan makes his first Champions League squad for Barça after missing the first game through suspension while Marc Bartra is back in the roster after being left out for the trip to the English capital.

Arsene Wenger is still without long-term absentees Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere, as well as goalkeeper Petr Cech who has missed the last three games through injury.

Coaches’ viewpoint

Luis Enrique was keen to play down his side’s 2-0 advantage during Tuesday’s press conference.

“The scoreboard looks very good, but it will not change our approach nor our preparation,” said the Asturian. “The tie is open and we are still in a dangerous situation, conscious that we have to be serious if we want to go through.”

Wenger, on the other hand, said: “Our objective is clear: we must attack”. The Frenchman concedes that his side are at a major disadvantage “but football always leaves a small window open”.

Form guide

Barça continue to go from strength to strength with a further four wins from as many games since the first leg, scoring 17 goals in the process. The hosts have won their last nine in all competitions and their record unbeaten streak stands at 37 matches.

Arsenal’s form has taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks, suffering league defeats to Manchester United and Swansea, while last Sunday saw them lose at home to Watford in the FA Cup quarter-final.

History

If Barça progress, it will be the third time that they knock out Arsenal in the competition, having previously done so in 2010 and 2011.

Barça and Arsenal have faced each other eight times in the Champions League, with the Catalans winning five times and losing just once.

Coverage

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FC Barcelona's 18-man squad to host Arsenal

Luis Enrique has revealed his 18 players to face Arsenal / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Luis Enrique will be without the suspended Piqué, as well as the injured Rafinha and Sandro, but Arda returns to the roster

Ahead of FC Barcelona’s Champions League last-16 second-leg against Arsenal at the Camp Nou on Wednesday (8.45pm CET), Luis Enrique announced his 18-man squad for the match.

The Catalans will be without Gerard Piqué due to his late yellow card in London three weeks ago. As far as injury concerns go, Luis Enrique will be unable to call upon Rafinha or Sandro Ramirez while Masip, Douglas and Adriano did not make the cut.

The manager is able to welcome back Arda Turan who missed the first leg through suspension while Marc Bartra is also included after missing out in the English capital.

Therefore, the 18 players tasked with finishing off the tie are: Ter Stegen, Bravo, Rakitic, Busquets, Alves, Arda Turan, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Mascherano, Bartra, Munir, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Aleix Vidal, Vermaelen and Mathieu.