The first leg of the knockout stage of the Champions League begins this week and the best of all eight matches in this stage has to be this Wednesday when Arsenal hosts 2009 Champions League winner Barcelona.
Bet365 has visiting Barcelona as the favorite in this match posted at 4.00 with Arsenal at 4.00 and a draw at 3.80 as well as terrific bonus offers and the best in-game betting platform in the world.
Barcelona is in first place in Spain's La Liga and they are the away favorites in this match facing Arsenal who they dispatched of last season in the Champions League, but they have some concerns. Their 16 match winning streak was halted over the weekend in their, rather shocking, draw against Sporting Gijon and their main defender will not play.
DF Carles Puyol was supposed to be ready for this match after missing the last three weeks, but he will not play because of risk of further injury.
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The main focus in this match is not the Barcelona defense, which has given up the fewest goals in La Liga this season, but rather their offense. They have scored the most goals in La Liga this season and they have 3 great scorers in David Villa, Pedro, and Lionel Messi, who is the reigning 2-time FIFA Player of the Year AND has 40 goals this season in all competitions.
Both teams play free-flowing soccer, which is fun to watch, and the key for Arsenal pulling off the upset is them playing solid defense and containing Barcelona's Xavi in the midfield. He is the main playmaker and if the Gunners can keep him in check they have a shot to win. However, that is not easy, especially since Arsenal MF Samir Nasri will not play because of a hamstring injury.
Arsenal likes to go on the attack and in this match they will count on Robin van Persie, Andrey Arshavin, Cesc Fabregas, and Theo Walcott to pressure the Barcelona defense. With Puyol out the Gunners should look to bring guys on the wings and look out for the counter attack.
With all the offensive power that Barcelona has up front they will need good matches from the defender duo of Emmanuel Eboue and Gael Clichy. However, these 2 stacking up with Messi, Villa, and Xavi? Not even close.
Arsenal has not beaten Barcelona is the five matches they have met and the last time they play it was a 2-2 draw in London in last season's Champion League. Look for an exciting game, but while Barcelona has more talent Arsenal can pour on the offense and they will not be taken lightly by the Spanish giants.
Here are the Champions League matches this week and their odds at Bet365 .
(Home Team First)
AC Milan 1.65
AS Roma 1.90
Shakhtar Donetsk 3.75