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Barca clash highlights Arsenal’s missed Suarez chance

By Agencies - Mar 15,2016 - Last updated at Mar 15,2016

Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, admitted his side face an almost impossible task when they travel to face a red-hot Barcelona on Wednesday looking to overturn a 2-0 first-leg deficit to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in six years.

As so often in the second half of Wenger’s 20-year reign, Arsenal will travel to the Camp Nou with a sense of what might have been.

They had their chances to lead at the Emirates three weeks ago before Barca’s brilliant forward triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez cut through them with an unerring ease they have made routine.

Messi, Neymar and Suarez have scored a combined 103 goals this season, Arsenal’s entire squad a mere 71.

Top of the list of Wenger’s detractors has been his inability or unwillingness to splash out on the top-class striker needed to turn Arsenal from perennial pretenders into winners.

Yet, he tried to land Suarez whilst the Uruguayan was still at Liverpool in 2013.

In a tale of Arsenal’s penny-pinch culture under Wenger, they infuriated Liverpool by launching a bid £1 over Suarez’s reported £40 million buyout clause.

Suarez bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup, the third time he had bitten an opponent in his career, sparking widespread condemnation and a four-month ban.

Yet, whilst others dithered, Barca pounced, eying exactly Suarez’s aggression as the tonic to revitalise the squad already blessed with the talents of Messi and Neymar.

Arsenal benefited in their own way from Suarez’s move as they snapped up Alexis Sanchez as Barca sold the Chilean to balance the books.

Yet, by swapping Sanchez for Suarez, Barca again demonstrated that they shop in a different market to Arsenal and haven’t looked back since.

Sanchez won two major trophies in three years at Barca, coinciding with the Catalans only three-year drought in winning Champions League in the past decade.

His 47 goals in 141 games were a respectable return, but Suarez has already struck 67 in 84 appearances, won a treble and has Barca on course to repeat that feat this season.

“Suarez gives Barca the aggression that is so important in the attacking third,” Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone said after seeing his impressive record against Barca turned upside down since Suarez’s arrival.

Most importantly of all, Suarez has managed to succeed where other great strikers like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Villa have failed in dovetailing perfectly with Messi.

Yet, on goalscoring terms at least, Suarez has surpassed Messi this season with 42 in 41 games to the Argentine’s 36 in 36.

Stopping one is difficult, stopping all three of the South American trio has been an impossible task in the past 18 months.

Arsenal could have had Suarez on their side. Instead, when they line-up on Wednesday, they will likely be made to suffer and wonder what could have been once more.

Confident Bayern

Bayern Munich are confident they have overcome a mini-crisis just in time for their Champions League round of 16 second leg against Juventus on Wednesday as they chase a treble of titles this season.

After conceding two second-half goals to draw 2-2 in Turin last month, Bayern’s near flawless season stuttered again after managing just one point from their previous two league games.

They returned to form, however, on Saturday when they crushed Werder Bremen 5-0.

“I think we showed that we are in a very good form. I would say that we are looking towards Wednesday with optimism,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Bayern, chasing a record fourth consecutive Bundesliga title as well as the German Cup in what is coach Pep Guardiola’s last season in charge, are in the driving seat, having scored twice in Italy and Juve need a win or a draw with three goals or more to advance.

Bayern have a perfect home record in the competition this season, having beaten Dinamo Zagreb, Arsenal and Olympiakos with an aggregate score of 14-1.

Until their shock 2-1 loss to Mainz 05 two weeks ago, Bayern had won 17 consecutive home games dating back to May, 2015.

With Mario Goetze making his comeback on Saturday after almost five months out and winger Franck Ribery getting much needed match practice after his own long injury break, Bayern will have more depth than in the first game in Turin.

But Guardiola warned qualification will not be easy against the Italians, last season’s Champions League finalists, and also on course for a treble.

“We are playing against one of the best teams in Europe,” the
Spaniard said.

“They have not conceded a goal in their last 10 league games so expect a very complicated and uncomfortable game.”

Juventus are in equally scintillating form, unbeaten in the league since October and having won 18 of their 19 league games since then.

Remarkably the Bianconeri have let in only one goal in their 12 Serie A matches this year and kept an unprecedented 10th successive clean sheet in the 1-0 win over Sassuolo Calcio last week.

“It will be a tremendous battle and we go to Munich full of enthusiasm and determination to reach the next round,” defender Leonardo Bonucci said.

“We are fully aware of how strong Bayern are, but they also possess a few weak points which we will look to exploit.”

It is those weaknesses that Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri will want to exploit with his team looking for their first win in Munich since 2004.

“When we play Bayern, we know we’re going to have to run hard for 90 minutes,” Allegri said.

 

“But it is our intention to go there looking for the win to seal our passage.”

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