This evening sees Arsenal entertain Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.
According to the bwin odds gurus, home advantage will count for little as far the Gunners’ hopes of beating the irresistible Barcelona are concerned; they’ve attributed a price of 15/4 for Arsene Wenger’s men to claim the spoils.
Despite the huge discrepancy in the match-betting markets, there’s reason to believe Arsenal will achieve what no team has managed since October 3rd and beat Barcelona.
Since Sevilla overcame the Catalan fat cats at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Luis Enrique’s troops have gone 33 games undefeated across all competitions, prevailing in 13 of their last 14.
It’s a formidable record and undoubtedly justifies their favouritism, but the Gunners have a habit for overachievement in one leg in Champions League ties of this magnitude and shouldn’t be ruled out.
They’ve met Barca twice in the knockout stage this decade and remain unbeaten in the first leg, despite being massive underdogs on both instances.
In seven meetings with La Liga’s champions under Wenger, home or away, Arsenal have never failed to score, nor have they lost the first meeting when scheduled to play twice and, of course, they were victorious in their most recent Emirates renewal, winning 2-1 in 2010/11.
Even when the pair contested the 2005/06 Champions League showpiece, the Gunners went in 1-0 up at half time despite having ten men from the 18th-minute onwards.
To further instil confidence in the north Londoners, they beat Bayern Munich earlier in the season when the Bavarian beasts appeared equally imperious.
Die Roten had won 12 on the spin before running into Arsenal, to whom they lost without scoring for the first time since May of the previous campaign.
Barca’s form may be as fearsome, but they haven’t been destroying their recent opponents. Valencia, Celta Vigo, Sporting Gijon and Las Palmas all breached their backline ahead of this outing.
Arsenal are far superior in both attack and defence to these teams and will cause them problems on their own patch.