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The Champions League: it’s us against them, again

So the draw is

  • Arsenal v Barcelona
  • Gent v Wolfsburg
  • Roma v Real Madrid
  • Paris St-Germain v Chelsea
  • Juventus v Bayern Munich
  • PSV Eindhoven v Atletico Madrid
  • Benfica v Zenit St Petersburg
  • Dynamo Kiev v Manchester City

Our games will be on February 23 and March 16 played at the same time as Juventus against Bayern.

It reminds me that the last time we played Barcelona I was offered £700 for my ticket as I walked to the stadium.  I didn’t accept.

Anyway, the question now is, who will we have in the team by then, apart from those we already have?

The current reckoning is

  • Sánchez (21 December)
  • Arteta, (2 January)
  • Wilshere (January)
  • Rosicky (January)
  • Welbeck (February)

Plus anyone we buy in the January window who isn’t cup tied.

Barcelona like Arsenal are top of their league.  Only that doesn’t quite mean the same thing in Spain as it means in England.

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 15 11 2 2 36 15 +21 35
2 15 11 2 2 22 7 +15 35
3 15 9 3 3 32 13 +19 30
4 15 8 4 3 26 22 +4 28
5 15 8 3 4 19 15 +4 27
6 15 5 8 2 23 16 +7 23
7 15 6 4 5 21 19 +2 22
8 15 5 6 4 19 12 +7 21
9 15 6 3 6 22 18 +4 21
10 15 5 6 4 19 17 +2 21
11 15 5 4 6 13 19 -6 19
12 15 5 2 8 15 26 -11 17
13 15 4 4 7 17 20 -3 16
14 15 4 3 8 16 24 -8 15
15 15 4 3 8 15 23 -8 15
16 15 3 5 7 9 14 -5 14
17 15 3 5 7 17 25 -8 14
18 15 4 2 9 16 27 -11 14
19 15 3 4 8 12 22 -10 13
20 15 2 5 8 12 27 -15 11

And here is the comparison for league games

1 Arsenal…. 16 10 3 3 29 13 16 33
1 15 11 2 2 36 15  21  35

As you can see, Deportivo are sixth in the Spanish league, and yet are closer to relegation than to the top two in the league.   It just shows how utterly unbalanced their league is and how weak the opposition lower down the league is.

Barcelona are not invincible this year – here are their defeats (they have had two to Arsenal’s three).

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  • Sevilla 2 Barcelona 1
  • Celta Vigo 4 Barcelona 1

Their last three games have all ended as draws

  • Sat 12th December: Barcelona 2 Deportivo 2
  • Wed 9th December: Bayer Leverkusen 1 Barcelona 1
  • Sat 5th December: Valencia 1 Barcelona 1

In October this year Lionel Messi and his dad were ordered to stand trial on tax fraud charges, accused of defrauding Spain of more than €4m by using offshore companies in Belize and Uruguay in 2007-09. They deny any wrongdoing, Messi Jnr alleging that he didn’t read the contracts and therefore it was all his dad’s fault.

I don’t know about Spanish law but I know for sure that in England that defence is not accepted in any court, from the County Court up to the Supreme Court.  And as I understand it the high court in Barcelona ruled that Messi should not be granted immunity for not knowing what was happening with his finances but no date has been set for the trial.

However lawyers acting for the tax authorities demanded 22-month jail sentences for both defendants.

Messi and his father made a voluntary €5m “corrective payment” – equal to the alleged unpaid tax plus interest – in August 2013.  However if the court accept this and do not issue further punishment they are opening the door to further frauds by other people being written off by “payment when caught”.

Meanwhile although it is no concern of ours, here is the Europa draw for those with nothing else to do on a Thursday.

  • Valencia v Rapid Vienna
  • Fiorentina v Tottenham Hotspur
  • Borussia Dortmund v FC Porto
  • Fenerbahce v Lokomotiv Moscow
  • Anderlecht v Olympiakos
  • Midtjylland v Manchester United
  • Augsburg v Liverpool
  • Sparta Prague v Krasnodar
  • Galatasaray v Lazio
  • Sion v Braga
  • Shakhtar Donetsk v Schalke
  • Marseille v Athletic Bilbao
  • Sevilla v Molde
  • Sporting Lisbon v Bayer Leverkusen
  • Villarreal v Napoli
  • Saint-Etienne v Basel


45 comments to The Champions League: it’s us against them, again

  • Tom

    I’m not sure of Messi’s tax evasion problems relevance on the draw with Arsenal tbh. If anything, I would be more concerned with Arda Turan being available for Barca from January, while Arsenal still being short of services of Coquelin, Santi and possibly Wilshere.

    This is the main reason I wanted to avoid Barca till the later stages .
    Playing them in February will put Arsenal in a huge disadvantage from the personnel stand point.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    The U19s are away to Anderlecht in the play-off round of their Champions League competition. The winners of all of the 8 play-off games join the eight group winners to make up the last 16. Games on 9/10 February. These games are a one-off tie so we need a win. Full draw
    Ajax v Seville
    Príbram (Cze) v CSKA Moskva
    Salzburg v Roma
    Anderlecht v Arsenal
    Celtic v Valencia
    Elfsborg (Swe) v Real Madrid
    Middlesbrough v Dynamo Kyiv (Ukr)
    Midtjylland (Den) v Athlético Madrid
    All of the home teams emerged from the Domestic Champions path, the away teams finished second in the groups that mirrored the Champions League.

  • Gord

    Some didn’t like us drawing Barcelona. I see some ManCity supporters arfe complaining that their tie in Kyiv will be played in an empty stadium. Would people prefer Arsenal to play Kyiv?

    One medja outlet has proclaimed that Arsenal/Barcelona is the match of the stage. Does that mean the game will be televised? Does it mean it will be televised live? Or is it relegated to the time delayed (local midnight or something) playing because Chelsea and ManCity get the live games? Actually irrelevant, as mentioned above we play the same time as Bayern/Juventus. Where is Arsenal in the pecking order with respect to Bayern and Juventus?

  • Robl

    @ Gord, I thought that they we’re all live on BT Sport? All of the Arsenal ones have so far. Just pause it to synch with Arsenal Radio.

  • Gord

    I’m across the pond. 🙂

  • Norman14

    I’m not too worried by the draw. Let’s face it, if we beat Barcelona, then this will be our best chance for many years, to secure the ECL trophy. If we don’t we can then concentrate on the EPL and FA Cup.

    Anything is better than the Thursday League!

  • Matt Clarke

    With fair officiating we can beat anyone.
    My only fear vs Barca is that is not what we will get.

  • Goonermikey

    A number of my mates think I’m paranoid about the bias shown towards Man U by the media. I think I’ve found the ultimate proof (about Sky at least).

    In summary, it states, “Fixtures, dates and reaction as the Premier League sides discover their fates in the Champions League and Europa League.” It then goes on to list seven ties. Three in the Champions League and four in the Europa League. But surely there are only three English sides in the Europa League I hear you ask……..

    Apparently not, clearly since the Neville thugs joined Valencia they are now worthy of being classed as an English club………..

  • Josif

    We can do them. It will be a big match for Arsene, he has been a huge fan of Champions League since the day one at Arsenal so we can expect him to do Luis Enrique tactically like he has done Klopp when it was all or nothing in 2013 or Guardiola in the first encounter with Bayern.

    Personally, all I’m thinking about is our next game against City. If we win that one, we will open a four-point gap on the most dangerous rivals.

  • proudkev

    Be positive.

    Barcelona are not invincible and the record for retaining the Chamipjs League is not good.

    We have some big time players now and a lot of experience in our side. Players returning will be fresh as daisies, so there are lots of positives.

    I never go into a game expecting to lose because I know anything can happen in football.

    In many ways this could be a better draw for us that a weaker team because the players will need no motivating. Mesut will have a point to prove to the Spanish fans after Real forced him out Alexis will definitely want to stick a couple of fingers up at Barcelona and Bellerin is going back there too. This is not a forgone conclusion, Barcelona are weak defensively and we can definitely do this. If we do, the confidence that would give the team could see us with an excellent chance of winning the thing.

    Cant wait.

  • Tom

    I like your positive attitude but I must ask what has changed your mind from: ” I’m not stupid enough to think Arsenal can win the CL ” , to : ” we can definitely do this” ???? 🙂

  • proudkev


    Our recent performances and the way we went to Olympiacos and performed like that.

    I am happy we drew Barcelona because I sometimes think we have a physochological problem when we face the lesser teams.

    Providing we have our best players available, I honestly think we can beat Barcelona. Forget that terrific front three they have, defensively they can be got at.

    Jump aboard the positive train Tom, its a much more enjoyable ride than the negative one mate.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    I am totally OK with drawing Barcelona. This is what it is all about. If we wanted to draw small sides, we should have applied for the Europa League.

  • Gord

    OT: Jokes

    Q: What sound does a horse make walking the streets in Liverpool?
    A: Klopp Kop, Klopp Kop, ….

    Q: What goes Klopp Kop, Klopp Kop, Klopp Kop, Klopp Kop, bang, bang, bang, bang, Klopp Kop, Klopp Kop, Klopp Kop.
    A: An Amish drive by shooting in Liverpool.

  • proudkev

    Champions League

    I thought it would be interesting to compare the current standings in la Liga with those of the Premier League; for the teams in the next round of the Champions League.

    Barcelona drew 2-2 at home to Deportivo La Coruna, after taking a 2-0 lead. They are conceding on average one goal per game in a league that with all due respect, does not have the same competitiveness as the Premier League. From an investment point of view, Barcelona and Real Madrid are on a different planet to Arsenal and their Spanish rivals, so you would expect to see this in the stats.

    In comparision, Arsenal have played one more game than the la Liga teams, play in a more intense and competitive league, yet have conceded 2 goals fewer than Barcelona and the same as Real Madrid. In fact, 4 goals fewer than Man City have hit the back of our net and 11 less than Chelsea. The repeated criticism about our defensive abilities is not reflected in the stats here.

    Conclusions: It may not get much tougher than Barcelona but they really arent this infallable, unbeatable team that everyone is trying to make out. Our stats are comparible and we have players returning too.

    The betting odds for the game at The Emirates: Arsenal 10/3 Barcelona 5/6

    PL W D L F A GD Pts
    1 Barcelona UEFA 15 11 2 2 36 15 21 35
    2 Atletico Madrid 15 11 2 2 22 7 15 35
    3 Real Galacticos 15 9 3 3 32 13 19 30

    1 Arsenal Wenger 16 10 3 3 29 13 16 33
    2 Man City Doped 16 10 2 4 32 17 15 32
    16 Chelsea Plastic 15 4 3 8 17 24 -7 15

  • proudkev

    Bloody formatting, looked lovely until the blog reformatted.

  • Strus

    If Arsenal really want to win the UCL, the likes of Barcelona, Real, Atletico and Bayern must be defeated on the way to the trophy.

  • Gord

    It’s the variable width typeface Kev. You don’t know what typeface any given browser is going to use to display things, and consequently unless a table is put in a table (HTML, PDF, …) it is hard to format anything. That wordpress eats excess spaces in places adds to formatting problems.

  • Al

    In 2006 we got to the final having faced some of the toughest sides en route, and beating them. And our 10 men came within a handful of minutes of winning that thing. That, had we done it but for the poor decision the ref made to send our keeper off 13 minutes into the match, would have eclipsed both the fluky utd wins and that solitary smash and grab chelski win.

  • porter

    As I stood behind the goal my first thought on Lehmann’s trip was “” He’s off “”. Biggest mistake in my mind was taking off Pires who to my mind was the most creative player we had on the pitch and that includes Henry.

  • Proudkev you need tables like so:

    column 1column 2

  • nicky

    Any team that is lying 1st or 2nd in the EPL (the toughest league in the world) has to be feared. Arsenal have so far lost 3 games this season. Barcelona has lost two.
    By the time the k/o stage is reached, Welbeck, Cazorla and Wilshere should have recovered from injury.
    Arsenal are famed for winning games where they are not favourites.
    The k/o series is two-legged, where goals are of paramount importance.
    Barcelona will not relish visiting Fortress Emirates. They lead the Spanish Primera Liga but the opposition is not of the highest quality. 😉

  • Ando

    I always want the Arse to be taking on and playing, the best. I want them to win, of course but if they can’t beat the next team in a knockout cup, then they ain’t going to win it at all.
    Bring on Barca, bring on Real, PSG etc.
    I love my team and want them to do well against the best. I was so proud of them at the 2006 Final v Barcelona , as Al said – we came within 15 minutes of doing them. A bit of luck and self-belief; and the undoubted skill and tenacity that this team has, we can turn in some truly excellent performances. I don’t care if we get beat – as long as we try our best. I’ve only known the Arse to majorly get egg on face when coming up against teams that they may “think” they only have to turn up against. So, bring on Barca! COYG.

  • Al

    Off topic
    But surely, surely, if Mourinho doesn’t get the sack in the morning then I don’t think he ever will; he’ll leave of his own accord when he wants. How many losses now, 9? And we haven’t even hit the halfway mark yet?

  • Pete

    Al – but it is very entertaining, no? Schadenfreude!

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Al, more importantly only four wins and one of them was Dean affected. They have certainly lost the fear factor they have had in the past couple of years. They are seen as beatable by just about everyone. Can’t see Maureen surviving for very much longer although even Abramovitch hasn’t got limitless resources particularly as he is going to stump up the 300m or whatever the stadium rebuild is likely to cost. Sacking and replacing him will probably cost a further £40m or so and buying the players a new manager wants a further £300m or so.

  • Jerry

    Surely, Roman will stick with Mourinho for at least 1 more week with a crucial relegation battle against Sunderland on Saturday.

  • nicky

    BT outbid Sky for exclusive coverage of this season’s CL games.
    Don’t know whether this extends beyond 2015/2016.

  • richheart

    Ajax ’72 onwards, watching us conpeting with the best, is what it’s all about.
    Last time we lost VP to a fake red card. Barcelona have beaten us twice in 10 years, both times needing help from the ref.

  • richheart

    Twice with help from the ‘neutral’ (should be neutered? :)) guy

  • porter

    Barca’s cules are well aware of the danger we represent as this tweet on one of their sites shows.Interesting the players that they have selected to watch.

    DRE4M @SocialBarca_10

    Last time we faced Arsenal they didn’t have Petr Cech and Alexis Sanchez. Giroud and Ozil weren’t playing well, they are now.
    12:33 PM – 14 Dec 2015

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    On our day we can beat anybody despite all but the most biased of referees. We will all have to be fully behind the team and try to ensure that the atmosphere inside the Emirates for the first game is every bit as intimidating as the Barca fans will make the Camp Nou. Barca are beatable and we can do it.


  • Gord

    It is said that the EPL is the toughest league in the world. What is a tough league?

    Most people work with averages and standard deviations, and yet again I didn’t. Medians are more robust.

    Over 20 years of the EPL (the first few years can’t be used), we see that the team in first place is able to score (about) 2 goals per game, and the team that is typically 19th is only able to score 1 goal per game.

    Places 17, 18 19 and 20 show a slight drop off from place to place, which is probably not statistically significant. There may be significance between 17 and 20, but nominally 17, 18 and 19 are the same.

    The places 10 through 16 are all nominally the same, and really are not significantly different from 17.

    Fifth and 6th are nominally the same, and 7-9 are nominally the same.

    And then there is the top 4; which is really a top 2, followed by 3 and 4th who are the same.

    But it does not matter what place you look at, there are years where one can observe the number of points for that rank being 10 or more different than usual, and anything above 8th place can easily be 20 or more different than expected. Or, teams in 7th or higher are often capable of scoring 2 or more goals per game consistently over a season.

    We also see the flip side, teams that score significantly fewer goals than expected for their rank at the end of the season. On occasion it might be a strong defence, I suspect a more common explanation is that the team realizes at the beginning of the season it has no goal scorers; and so it parks the bus all season long and nobody scores anything.

    For those who like to plot things, here are the medians, and the median absolute deviation (like a standard deviation, sort of): 78.5,5.5; 72.5,7; 68,6; 66.5,4.5; 55,2.5; 54.5,3.5; 50.5,3.5; 48.5,2.5; 48,2; 45,2.5; 44,3.5; 44.5,5; 41,3.5; 43,4; 42.5,3.5; 42,35.; 38,3; 41,3; 38,4.5; 34.5,4.5.

    I think you also see a little relaxation in the mid table (8,9,10). Teams that recognize they are mid table, but by luck they got well beyond the relegation zone early enough, that they didn’t have to fight all the time.

    Maybe you have a different interpretation?

    Have fun with your numbers.

  • para

    I sometimes wonder why they bother with drawing the teams? We always seem to get the same (-ish) draw every season(TV?).

    I would have rather loved them in the CL final 🙂

  • para

    Mourinho and Chel$ players are probably holding their owner to ransom for more money? 🙂

  • Polo

    I don’t mind we play Barca, if we want to win CL sooner or later we will have to play against the big teams. In football any team can win. Leicester top of league who would have predicted this.

  • Crovax

    I’m surprised no one’s mentioned the millions lost by getting out in the round of 16 instead of getting to (and then maybe losing in) the final. I think I’d much rather have that, so no, I’m not happy with getting Barca because we will not be allowed to beat them even if we played like the Invincibles.

    Also – this focus on the league once we’re out of the CL hasn’t done us much good in recent years, has it?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    With a fit and raring forward line of Alexis , Walcott and Giroud , backed by Ozil , Ramsey and Cazorla , I am looking forward to a real treat.
    Hopefully UEFA would be in a shambles and in total disarray by then as the football corruption scandal spreads . Maybe a new referees’ head by then ?

    In the meantime , what do you think is the predominant wish of the Chelski fans for this Christmas , in the New Year and in the January transfer window periods ?

    An easy option as always , without a doubt ! And those ostriches will preach it . Never works in the long run , buy , hey , they know their stuff!

    Probably won’t be much fun as Moanin’inho ! At lesst the new man’s head won’t be as big , so never going to get stuck in the Christmas stocking !

    Getting behind the team of one’s childhood and cheering them on , no matter what . So old fashion ! Need not be applicable to ‘Johney- come -latelys , and the just recently jumped on the wagon types !

    The stables are beginning to stink and the tools don’t work well- blame them.
    Buy another ‘world class ‘ false centerforward – Costa , Remy and Falcao are just not good enough . Also strengthen the ‘spine ‘ of the team – another popular mantra of the Gurus . Start with the keeper . Hmmmmm where is one going to find one ?

    The present one is suitable only for the Championship ! Dreams often have a way of becoming a nightmare !

    Roman’s yacth ( money and attention ) is badly needed by Russia’s Darth Putin to break the Turkish blockade in the middle east . After all it was built in honour of the legendary Millennium Falcon , that made the Kessel Run in “less than twelve parsecs” , in a galaxy far , far away !


  • ARSENAL 13

    Barca again?? I was hoping for Real Madrid this time for a change. But who cares. We are going to beat them this time. With Alexis back. Rambo starting to warm up. Welbeck and Theo hopefully fully fit. With Wilshere too….

    Barca look from other planet, but then they’ve not faced THE GUNNERs yet….

  • WalterBroeckx

    I think if you look at the last 16 in the last 5 years you will mainly see the same teams being in the draw and thus the chance for repeating fixtures is very big of course

  • Brickfields Gunners

    And speaking of fine Christmas gifts , this has to be one of the most thoughtful ones !

  • Mandy Dodd

    I can see how things lend themselves to repeated fixtures, but year on year, getting Barca, Bayern, or both, having refs intervene when we are getting on top in the Camp Nou suggests someone somewhere does not like us.
    I am hoping that the removal of the odious, and corrupt Platini , for someone more transparent, accountable, and not in Qatars pockets might improve things, but we shall see
    Platini was no friend of English football and was very critical of our club and manager, claiming we ran only as a business, not to win

  • Pat

    Trouble is, Mandy, where is that uncorrupted person to replace Platini? It seems clearer by the day that the award of every major sporting fixture is riddled with corruption. I am looking forward to finding out more about the role of our own Sebastian Coe in the athletics field.

  • Andy Mack

    On ‘our day’ we can beat any other team.
    The 2 issues will be:
    1) can we have ‘our day’ in 2 games against the same team?
    2) will the officials allow a level playing field?
    We will find out in a few months time…