Sunday 4 December 2016

Arsenal v Barcelona: Both teams ranked and rated ahead of crunch Champions League clash

Published 23/02/2016 | 08:35

Alan Smith, the former Arsenal forward, ranks the teams ahead of their Champions League showdown, but who comes out on top?

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Petr Cech

It is precisely for nights like this that the goalkeeper was bought. Sure to be busy but if he can respond it might just be enough to keep a clean sheet. 9

Héctor Bellerín

Faces a tough task with Neymar’s trickery but Arsenal also need their right-back to get involved going forward. A very useful tool on the counter attack. 8

Per Mertesacker

With Gabriel recently injured, the big German steps forward to try and contain Luis Suárez. In this respect, his positional play must be spot on. After that he needs luck. 6

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Laurent Koscielny

More suited to chasing Suárez and getting tight to Lionel Messi when the little magician ducks inside. Needs to be on top of his game. A vital cog. 9

Nacho Monreal

Won't want to get dragged wide. Tucking in close to Koscielny will surely be the aim to try and avoid any inviting gaps. In his favour, the Spaniard is enjoying a great season. 8

Francis Coquelin

Great to have him back protecting that defence. Will have to constantly shift across, both trying to close avenues and get a foot in before anything dangerous develops. 8

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Aaron Ramsey

A very big challenge for someone not naturally blessed with a defensive mindset. Wants to get forward but must be cute. Decision-making will be key. 7

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

A disappointing season could be quickly turned around by a good outing here. When Jordi Alba goes, he will have to track back, which hasn't always been a strength. 5

Mesut Özil

Rested at the weekend, the ingenious German needs to be at his best as the one most capable of holding on to the ball and creating in the final third. 9

Alexis Sánchez

Has not yet hit top gear since returning from injury and was unusually hurried with some strikes against Leicester. That said, still capable of providing Arsenal’s inspiration. 8

Olivier Giroud

A seven-game goalless streak ignores the great work he puts in elsewhere, namely an eye for setting up others. A bit more of that would go down a treat. 7

Total: 84/110

 

BARCELONA

Marc-André ter Stegen

Saved mainly for the Champions League and Copa del Rey, the German doesn't suffer from a lack of match practice. On the contrary, he is composed and confident. 8

Dani Alves

After so long at the club, the right-back continues to produce week after week, thanks to his appetite for competition. Likes to hit a long ball to Suárez. 8

Gerard Piqué

A Rolls-Royce of a centre-half very comfortable on the ball. Can hit it long, can play it short. Most importantly, very hard to beat. 9

Javier Mascherano

Normally used at the back for these big games, since manager Luis Enrique loves his pacey tenacity and clever reading of the game. 9

 

Jordi Alba

A lightening quick left-back who sprints forward to great effect. Going the other way, it should be interesting to see him cope with the equally swift Bellerín. 9

Ivan Rakitic

Lends vital legs to this midfield. Always on the move and very inventive as an attacking threat making good runs into the box. 8

Sergio Busquets

The very best around in the anchorman role. Instinctively fills holes and blocks channels. On the ball, his passing is both simple and sensational. 9

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Andrés Iniesta

The maestro keeps going in that wonderfully familiar style. His razor-sharp brain acts as a perfect support to all the fireworks in front. 9

Lionel Messi

Will he ever slow down, will he ever ease up? Not whilst he's enjoying his football to this extent as part of an attacking trio without compare. 10

Luis Suárez

41 goals and counting. The Uruguayan rarely looks like missing these days. And his running off the ball is vital in creating room for team-mates. 10

Neymar

The third piece in a jigsaw that is setting new standards. Such a cool customer in front of goal and such a wonder to watch with his silky ball control. 9

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Total: 98/110

 

Head-to-head: Arsenal 85/Barclona 98

Telegraph.co.uk

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