It was never going to be easy. With a 2-0 defeat in the first leg to the holders, the best team in the world and arguably the best ever. MSN (Messi, Suarez, Neymar) in particular are on another level to most players.
We would have to play the best game we have played all season and even then it might not be enough. We needed a miracle if we were going to go through to the quarter final stage for the first time in 6 years.
There were a few changes to the side once again as first choice full backs Bellerin and Monreal came back into the side after not playing in the team that lost to Watford in the FA Cup. We also had another major boost in defence as star Koscielny came back from injury alongside Gabriel in what was our best back four. We just need Cech back now even though Ospina has played quite well in his absence.
Flamini however surprisingly came into the midfield instead of Coquelin which I thought was wrong but the former did get injured in the first half and was replaced by the latter so it didn’t matter in the end. Elsewhere in midfield Elneny kept his place in the side, promising youngster Iwobi started which was a gamble and Welbeck rightfully regained his place up front. Özil and Alexis Sanchez completed the side and they are the players you have to look at to perform in these games.
So the game kicked off and I wasn’t giving myself much hope for once. We did actually start very well though by creating chances and getting into some dangerous positions but it was without success.
However, Barcelona then showed their quality and the difference between the sides as firstly Ospina made a great save to deny Messi before Neymar broke the deadlock. They made the goal look so easy and we need to be this clinical if we are to be up there with the best. It was also a mistake from us which you can’t afford to do at this level and especially against Barcelona as Koscielny lost the ball and they broke with pace and efficiency.
We responded very well to this though and created more chances. Iwobi could have won a penalty but it was minimal contact and would have been harsh to Barcelona. However they have been given and I definitely would have taken it of course.
We didn’t manage to score though and the score stayed the same until half time. We now needed to do what Liverpool did in the Champions League final in Istanbul where they scored three goals in the second half and went on to win.
The second half was similar to the first in that we still looked good and could have scored and we fortunately did get our reward after just 6 minutes. It was January signing Elneny who brilliantly hit the ball first time and it flew past their keeper into the top corner to give him his first goal in an Arsenal shirt. A great goal and it importantly gave us some hope.
We could have even got another one moments later when Welbeck was through on goal only for a great block from Masherano to deny him.
Again though Barcelona showed that you have to be clinical as Suarez amazingly volleyed it in to basically put the game out of reach. This was annoying because until that point we were really in the game and it was very close.
The game then opened up and Welbeck hit the bar as we tried to get back into it. We nearly scored after that as well but Ter Stegan made some great saves for them and we just couldn’t score again.
But in the end though there was a clear difference between the sides as Messi put the game to bed. It was a great chip over Ospina and he has now scored nine goals against us in the Champions league which is more than any other player against a single opponent.
So it was an MSN masterclass and we just weren’t good enough. I would be very surprised if they didn’t go on to win the competition and I think any team will struggle against them. I actually think we played quite well against them in both legs and certainly weren’t embarrassed -we just need more quality and to take our chances. What makes Barcelona so good is their ability to change a game in a second and they don’t have to play that well to win.
We now only have the league to focus on and we still have a slight chance to win it. Next up on Saturday is a big game against Everton away and if we are to win the league we need to win it and go on a run. It’s not over yet!