PARIS, February 22 – Champions League holders Barcelona arrive at the Emirates on Tuesday to tackle an Arsenal side seeking to rediscover the ruthless streak which deserted them in a tame weekend goalless FA Cup tie.
The clash headlines a week of European action that sees Bayern Munich at Juventus, PSV Eindhoven hosting Atletico Madrid and Manchester City at Dynamo Kiev.
Barca and Arsenal are no strangers in this arena, the pair having fought out the 2006 final, with the Catalans prevailing over Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ 2-1 in Paris.
Lionel Messi then scored four times when Barca dished out a 4-1 drubbing to the Gunners in a 2010 quarter-final.
And the Argentine superstar inspired a Barca second leg fightback after Arsenal edged the last 16, first leg home tie 2-1 in 2011.
To prevent a similar scenario this time around, Gunners coach Arsene Wenger has told his team to bare its teeth on Tuesday after Saturday’s 0-0 stalemate against second-tier Hull.
The Frenchman knows a similarly toothless display against free-scoring Luis Suarez and Neymar will leave his men on the back foot for next month’s last 16, return leg at the Camp Nou.
“We need to be more efficient in the final third because today (on Saturday) we have more than 70 percent possession and we will not get that on Tuesday night (against Barcelona),” Wenger said.
“We started favourites (against Hull), we won’t be on Tuesday night so on Tuesday night we need great solidarity because we need to defend well, we know that, and make the maximum of our possession, what we didn’t do today.”
Mesut Ozil, one of nine changes against Hull, will return to face Barcelona after recovering from a cold.
Arsenal centre-back Per Mertesacker endorsed his manager’s assessment.
“Overall, we missed a bit of something and we have to come back quickly in three days time,” said the German world champion.
Barca turn up seemingly firing on all cylinders and eight points clear in La Liga after Suarez and Neymar teamed up in the weekend’s 2-1 win at Las Palmas.
Barca boss Luis Enrique rested only Gerard Pique, whilst Sergio Busquets was also suspended from the side that is expected to start in north London.
– Mueller warning –
Bayern head to Turin to face last season’s runners-up Juve with the German giants having Thomas Mueller to thank for digging them out of trouble in a 3-1 home comeback win over Darmstadt over the weekend.
Mueller warned that Bayern cannot expect to enjoy the same 81 percent possession in Turin which allowed them to pepper in 36 shots on Darmstadt’s goal.
“(Saturday’s) match had nothing to do with Juventus, we’re just happy to have won and taken three more points,” said Mueller.
“We have to be tighter in Turin, we can’t allow them so many chances.”
Juve are on a 16-match unbeaten home run in European competition, their last defeat coming in 2013 to Bayern in the Germans’ title-winning season.
Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic is expected to return from a three-week injury lay-off to come up against his old side.
Defender Patrice Evra said the Croatian will have even more reason to score.
“All the players are important but when someone has already played for the other team, he usually has different motivation to the rest of us, and he won’t hide that fact.
“He will want to hit Bayern where it hurts. He’ll be even more hungry than the rest of us.”
Bayern coach Pep Guardiola moves to the Premier League next season and his future employers Man City travel to Kiev on the back of Sunday’s 5-1 drubbing by Chelsea in the FA Cup.
Coach Manuel Pellegrini courted controversy by fielding five full debutants in his bid to save firepower for Ukraine.
Wednesday’s second game sees two-time runners up Atletico at 1988 champions and Dutch leaders PSV.