Arsenal and Barcelona meet at the Emirates Stadium in the Women’s Champions League this week in what is easily the biggest game of matchday five of the ongoing group stage.
There is no let up for Arsenal just days after being comfortably beaten by Chelsea in the FA Cup final. A point would guarantee the Gunners a place in the knockout rounds – even as things stand they are all but certain of going through. But that is easier said than done against the reigning champions, who made Chelsea look very ordinary in last season’s final.
Barcelona have taken maximum points so far, are already assured of a knockout place, and are the clear favourites to lift the trophy again. They also have two of the best three players in the world this year, according to the final 2021 Ballon d’Or Feminin vote, in their ranks.
This is everything you need to know about the game…
When is kick off? Thursday 9 December, 20:00 (GMT)
Where is the match being played? Emirates Stadium
TV channel/live stream? DAZN UEFA Women’s Champions League YouTube channel
Highlights? DAZN UEFA Women’s Champions League YouTube channel
Referee? Anastasia Pustovoitova (RUS)
Tobin Heath still isn’t available for Arsenal because of niggling fitness trouble, while Leah Williamson remains a more critical loss for the Gunners,
Barcelona have travelled without influential centre-back Mapi Leon. Former Arsenal player Asisat Oshoala is also missing, as is teenage forward Bruna Vilamala, but everyone else is fit.
Alexia Putellas plays in the Champions League for the first time since being presented with the 2021 Ballon d’Or Feminin trophy just over a week ago.
Arsenal: Zinsberger; Maritz, Wubben-Moy, Beattie, Catley; Maanum, Walti, Little; Mead, Miedema, McCabe
Barcelona: Panos; Torrejon, Paredes, Pereira, Ouahabi; Engen, Guijarro, Putellas; Hansen, Hermoso, Martens
The tables have turned since Barcelona first met Arsenal in the Champions League almost a decade ago, in what was the former’s first ever appearance in the competition.
Putellas was just a teenager for those last 32 ties at the start of the 2012/13 campaign and had only recently returned to the club from Levante. Arsenal ran out 3-0 winners in Spain, before a crushing 4-0 victory at home for a 7-0 aggregate win overall. Centre-back Jennifer Beattie, who will play on Thursday night, scored four of those seven in total.
When the clubs met earlier this season, Barcelona were comfortable winners. They tore Arsenal apart on matchday one, leading 3-0 shortly after half-time and eventually settling it 4-1 after the Gunners pulled a consolation goal back.
Mariona Caldentey, the aforementioned Putellas and Oshoala, and Lieke Martens scored the Barcelona goals that night. Frida Maanum got Arsenal’s.
Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall was honest in admitting that he effectively underestimated Barcelona in the reverse fixture. He won’t make that mistake again and both he and his players will have learned important lessons from that defeat.
It is not ideal timing coming so soon after being taken apart by Chelsea at Wembley, but the Gunners will hope to ride the wave of what is anticipated to be a decent crowd at the Emirates Stadium and at least make it a closer contest than last time.
For Barcelona, if they do what they know they can, the result won’t be in question.
Prediction: Arsenal 0-2 Barcelona