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Few will challenge Barcelona this season

Lionel Mess scored twice in Barcelona's 2-0 win at Arsenal in the last-16 Champions League first leg on Tuesday night

Lionel Mess scored twice in Barcelona’s 2-0 win at Arsenal in the last-16 Champions League first leg on Tuesday night

Arsenal’s 2-0 home loss to Barcelona in the last-16 of the Champions League first leg on Tuesday night will have come as little surprise to most observers.

Not even the most diehard Gunners fan could have said they fancied their chances against the Catalan giants. They were right.

Arsenal are the favourites to win the Premier League title with some, not me I favour Leicester myself, but Luis Enrique’s side did not have to be at their best in the end to take a two goal lead back to the Camp Nou for the second leg.

Had pretty quiet nights really

Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar are the best strike-force in world football. The figures do not lie, as they now have 93 goals between them in all competitions.

It is very rare for all three to have quiet nights, but it’s incredible to think that Neymar had a relatively quiet night, although he did have a hand in Barcelona’s opening goal.

Luis Suarez is the top scorer in European football at the moment, but the Uruguayan managed to put a header wide of goal and also hit the post. If the former-Arsenal man had been on form the deficit would have been far worse for the Gunners. The former-Liverpool star had a rare off-night in front of goal.

Lionel Messi bagged himself a brace for the Catalan giants and was the match-winner in the end. He was not at his electric best, but he produced the key moments in the match. The little Argentine often makes brilliance look routine.

A lot teams only have one star player to stop, but stopping this current Barcelona team seems almost impossible at the moment.

Arsenal did not play badly

In truth Arsenal did not play that badly against the Catalan giants, for 70 minutes. They worked hard to restrict the European champions, but in the end were not quite disciplined enough to prevent the Spanish champions making a breakthrough.

The Gunners are accustomed to dominating possession and having the ball, so when they come up against a team better than them at keeping the ball they are ill-equipped to deal with it.

The likes of former-La Liga stars Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez tried their best to give the Gunners an attacking threat along with England winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain before he went off injured, but in the end the lack of possession crippled any chance of the Gunners getting on the scoresheet.

The Gunners had two big chances in the game. One fell to Oxlade-Chamberlain in the first half, which the midfielder hit straight at Marc Ter Stegen in the Barcelona goal.

The other was a rare threat on the Barcelona goal offered by an Olivier Giroud header that was superbly saved by Ter Stegen once again. Apart from those two efforts on goal it is difficult to remember Arsenal offering much more of an attacking threat and that was due to Barcelona’s ball retention.

Who could rival Barcelona?

Barcelona seems to have very few challengers for the European crown this season. Arch-rivals Real Madrid and La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid seem like two of the most likely teams to challenge the Catalan giants.

However, this season Barcelona look to be running away with the Spanish league title and have already hammered Los Blancos 4-0 at the Bernabeu. Barcelona also defeated Atleti 2-1 at the Nou Camp, although Diego Simeone’s men did have two players dismissed.

Atletico could prove a far tougher obstacle than their city rivals, if of course both teams from the Spanish capital go through to the last eight of course. Simeone’s side are well-drilled and disciplined.

For me though Barcelona’s biggest rivals for the European crown this season are Bavarian giants Bayern Munich. The German champions drew 2-2 away at Italian champions and last year’s finalists Juventus on Tuesday night.

Bayern are usually a disciplined team, who concede very few goals, but somehow managed to surrender a two goal lead in Turin. However, with two away goals to take into the second leg back at the Allianz they will be confident of progression.

Ironically Bayern are managed by former-Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola and if anybody can challenge the juggernaut of Barcelona it is the Bavarian side.

Barcelona do have their weaknesses, like any team they are not infallible, but at odds of 7/4 it will be difficult to back against the Catalan giants making history and retaining the Champions League trophy this season

Can anybody stop Barcelona winning the Champions League this season?

Wed 24 Feb, 2016
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