Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 23rd 2016 Contents A52
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, February 23, 2016
LONDON---In Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and
Neymar, Arsenal faces the most potent strike
force in the game---and a team that will prob-
ably be more than halfway to the Champions
League quarterfinals after today s match.
Tactically and physically, Barcelona will
ensure the first leg at Emirates Stadium will
be one of the toughest matches the hosts have
faced in a very long time.
It s a far cry from Saturday s opponent,
Hull, in a drab, goalless FA Cup draw---as Arse-
nal manager Arsene Wenger is the first to rec-
"It s more difficult to prepare against Hull
than against Barcelona," Wenger said yesterday.
"Because against Barcelona everybody is
focused, naturally, so it s more to create belief
and confidence. Against Hull, it s more to raise
the urgency level.
"Tomorrow, everybody s convinced that we
need absolutely to be as a whole squad totally
focused, to have a chance... No team is perfect,
(though) they are not far from it, Barcelona,
I must say. We have to use every moment in
the game where we have a chance to score."
Here are some things to know about today s
Messi brings not only his exceptional talent
but also an impressive track record against
Barcelona has beaten Arsenal in their two
previous meetings in the knockout stages,
with Messi scoring all four goals at the Camp
Nou in 2010 as the hosts romped to a 4-1
victory on the night and a 6-3 win on aggre-
The following season, Messi scored twice
in a 3-1 victory that put the home side through
4-3 on aggregate.
Only a torn hamstring kept him out of the
2006 final, when Barcelona came back to beat
a 10-man Arsenal side 2-1 in Paris.
It s no secret that Barcelona s attacking trio
of Messi, Suarez and Neymar get on very
well---on and off the field.
"Although they are different characters, on
the pitch they are pure harmony," Barcelona
midfielder Ivan Rakitic said. "It may sound
like an exaggeration, but I say Messi, Suarez
and Neymar are the best friends in the world,
possibly the best in the history of football."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger also high-
lighted the trio s team spirit.
"They have a great solidarity," he said. "Messi
gave the ball to Suarez (from a penalty) because
he wanted him to be the best goalscorer when
he (Messi) had the opportunity to score his
300th goal. That means there is something
While the spotlight is bound to fall on Messi,
the threat posed by Suarez will not be lost on
Arsenal, or the crowd.
His prolific three-year spell with Liverpool
nearly won the Premier League for his former
club in 2014. He followed that up by scoring
both goals as Uruguay beat England 2-1 at
the World Cup, effectively ending its hopes
of progress from the group stage.
Suarez is in scintillating form this season
for Barcelona, both domestically---where he
is the league s top scorer with 25 goals---and
in the Champions League, where he scored
five goals in as many games.
Arsenal may well regret, yet again, the club s
failed bid for him in 2013.
Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta has
been studying his Arsenal opponents and says
he knows how challenging they can be.
Iniesta said Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta
is a great player and "in the youth ranks he
was a team leader."
Iniesta is also wary of former teammate
Alexis Sanchez, whom he described as "very
unpredictable" when attacking.
"He is physically strong and very capable,"
Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin is another
product of the Barcelona youth academy.
Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Petr Cech
will return for Arsenal after being rested for
Saturday s goalless FA Cup draw with Hull,
while Sanchez and Olivier Giroud are set to
start after being on the bench.
Sanchez was lackluster as a substitute but
manager Arsene Wenger has no doubts about
the Chile international s readiness to face the
side he left in 2014 after three years.
"Don t worry about Tuesday," Wenger said.
"He ll be tuned in. I think it s more focus.
Sanchez, I don t think he was completely ready
to come on."
Luis Enrique's goals
Luis Enrique takes on Arsenal for the first
time as Barcelona s coach. However, during
the midfielder s playing career, he scored in
both matches when the clubs met in the group
stage of the Champions League in 1999.
He scored in a 1-1 first-leg draw at the Nou
Camp and then again in a 4-2 win at Wembley
Stadium, Arsenal s temporary home for Cham-
pions League matches. (AP)
MILAN---Even if he scores, Bay-
ern Munich midfielder Arturo
Vidal won t be celebrating against
The Chile international spent
four seasons at Juventus before join-
ing Bayern last year, helping the
Bianconeri to four league titles and
an Italian Cup. He also reached the
Champions League final with
Juventus last season.
Today, Vidal and his new Bayern
teammates will face Juventus and
his old teammates in the last 16 of
the Champions League.
"For me it will be a special match
because I have ties to Juve and I
am grateful to them," Vidal. "I had
four incredible years there. I felt at
home. The fans and the club always
"I would have liked to meet Juve
in the semifinals or in the final. I
didn t like the draw but that s foot-
Vidal was loved by Juventus fans
for his combative nature and ded-
ication to the team, and he won t
be expected to give any less against
his old team.
"I admit, I miss Juve," Vidal said.
"But now I defend the shirt and
the colours of Bayern, and I will
give my absolute all so my team
manages to win the two matches
and reach the quarterfinals."
Of the eight previous meetings
between the sides, Bayern has four
wins and Juventus three. But the
German side has won the past three
Here are some things to know
about today s match:
Apart from Vidal and Kingsley
Coman, who return to their previ-
ous club after joining Bayern last
year, Juventus striker Mario
Mandzukic provides another famil-
iar face after spending two seasons
at Bayern from 2012-14.
Mandzukic, a combative forward
and awkward opponent for any
defender, helped Bayern win two
Bundesliga titles and he scored in
the Champions League final to help
the side win its treble in 2013. Alto-
gether, he scored 39 goals in 74
appearances, 33 in 54 league games.
But Mandzukic had a rocky rela-
tionship with Pep Guardiola, who
took over as coach in 2013, and the
club was known to favour Robert
Lewandowski, still playing at the
time for Borussia Dortmund.
Mandzukic resumed training Sat-
urday following a month out
"He will want to hurt Bayern, he
will have a different hunger and
motivation to us," Juventus defender
Patrice Evra said. "When Mario s
out there I ve never seen a defender
leave the pitch happy, because Mario
works a lot for the team, he does
a really important job."
Despite a shortage of first-choice
central defenders, Holger Badstuber,
Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez
are all injured, offence is the best
form of defence for Bayern.
Both Robert Lewandowski and
Thomas Mueller have been in top
form this season, while Arjen
Robben, Douglas Costa and Coman
provide a stellar supporting cast.
Lewandowski and Mueller have
formed a formidable partnership
with 22 and 17 goals, respectively,
helping Bayern go eight points clear
in the Bundesliga. Their 39 goals
after 22 rounds beats the record set
by Bayern greats Gerd Mueller (24)
and Uli Hoeness (13) in 1973.
"We can count on our players up
front, and that s a good feeling,"
Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer
Juventus will be hoping Sami
Khedira can continue to be its good
luck charm despite the midfielder s
miserable streak against Bayern.
Khedira, who has missed parts
of the campaign with injury, has
not been on the losing side since
he joined Juventus in the offseason,
winning 14 matches and drawing
the other two.
However, Khedira, who won the
Bundesliga title with Stuttgart in
2007, has been on the winning side
only three times against Bayern and
was in the Real Madrid team beaten
by Bayern in the 2012 Champions
He did score twice in a 2-2 draw
with Bayern in 2008, including a
"I wouldn t mind scoring,"
Khedira said. "Especially because
things haven t gone well against
Bayern over the years. Our injury
woes in defence won t decide the
match, but our mentality will. If
we don t approach the match cor-
rectly we won t trouble the Ger-
"They are one of the strongest
teams in the world and you are free
to believe they are favourites, but
I believe Juve are on par with Bay-
ern. We have the experience and
characteristics to play in important
matches like this." Khedira is again
returning from injury. He was
rushed back for Juventus victory
against title rival Napoli but was
rested for Friday s goalless draw at
Bologna, which ended the team s
run of 15 consecutive league wins---
two short of the Serie A record.
Bayern midfielder Vidal relishing return to Juventus
Arsenal eyes trio as Barcelona comes to town
FC Barcelona's Neymar, right, celebrates a goal with his teammates Luis Suarez and Lionel
Messi against Celta Vigo during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Camp Nou stadium in
Barcelona, Spain, Sunday. AP PHOTO
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