By Andrew Crawshaw
Our match against Barcelona is being played tomorrow evening at the Emirates with a 19:00 kickoff. It will also be shown live on the DAZN streaming website and probably also by arsenal.com so you should be able to watch it wherever you are in the world.
Barcelona are, without doubt, the best team in Europe at the moment and the reigning European Champions, having beaten Chelsea 4 – 0 in last year’s final. That was pretty much the same Chelsea side that beat us 3 – 0 in the Cup Final on Sunday so anything other than a Barcelona win will be a big upset of form books. In the reverse leg Barcelona beat us by 4 – 1 in Spain and we never looked like winning, in fact, we showed them far too much respect apart from a 15-minute spell in the second half when we competed properly and scored our goal.
In terms of qualifying for the knockout stage we don’t need to win tomorrow. A draw would guarantee qualification, as would Køge beating Hoffenheim. If we lose it means that we can’t afford to lose in Hoffenheim next week by more than 4 – 0.
Here are all four league tables
PSG and Barcelona are the only teams already qualified for the knockout quarterfinals.
In Group A, Chelsea play Juventus tonight and need at least a draw to qualify, if they don’t and Wolfsburg beat Servette as I would expect, qualification will go down to the last round of matches next week.
Group B Real Madrid are away in Iceland against Briedabilk and should ensure their qualification alongside PSG with a win.
In Group D Benfica need to win both of their last two games against Lyon and Bayern Munich. They play Lyon tomorrow night and Bayern next week. Anything else will see them knocked out and Lyon and Bayern progress.
In our group, as I noted above, Barcelona are already qualified and we are strong favourites to join them. Hoffenheim in third place need to win against both Køge, which they will probably do, and ourselves (by a better score than the 4 – 0 by which we beat them at Borehamwood) to prevent us from progressing. Possible but extremely unlikely.
Tomorrow’s game is therefore something of a ‘free hit’ and we should be able to play our own game without being intimidated. In the away leg we showed Barcelona far too much respect and only started playing our game in the second half when we were already out of the game.
So far Køge are the only team to have played with a high intensity against them from the start and could easily have been two goals up in the first 10 minutes. They are also the only team not to have conceded against them in the first 60 minutes of the game. They eventually ran out of steam and lost 2 – 0 which is Barcelona’s smallest win of the season. In the Spanish League Barcelona have 12 wins from 12 and have scored 72 goals conceding only 3 so they average 6 goals a game domestically.
No fewer than 5 of the Barcelona squad were listed in the nominations for the Women’s Balon D’Or with midfielder Alexia Putellas winning the award. The other nominees were forwards, Like Martens and Jennifer Hermoso, goalkeeper Sandra Paños and defender Irene Paredes. In contrast only Vivianne Miedema was listed from the Arsenal squad. Chelsea had five nominations in Eriksson, Flemming, Harder, Kerr and Kirby.
We come into this game on the back of a disappointing, to say the least, performance against Chelsea and need to show far more intent than we did at Wembley. I would expect a similar starting 11, although Iwabuchi and Jordan Nobbs could well make the starting 11.
Noëlle Maritz, Jennifer Beattie, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Katie McCabe
Lia Walti, Kim Little, Jordan Nobbs
Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema, Mana Iwabuchi
Lydia Williams (GK), Anna Patten, Teyah Goldie, Simone Boye Sørensen, Viktoria Schnarerbeck, Nikita Parris, Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley, Frida Maanum
I will try and add updates to this post as the game proceeds and will try and have a post-match report on Thursday night or Friday depending on how I feel when I get home.
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