Feb 23, 2016

    Can Gunners stop Barca's bid to retain title?


    BARCELONA take a 32-match unbeaten run to Arsenal for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie tonight, as the Catalans continue their bid to become the first team to retain the trophy in 26 years.

    No team have won back-to-back titles in the Champions League era, with Arrigo Sacchi's all-conquering AC Milan side the last to claim consecutive European Cups in 1989 and 1990.

    Unbeaten since a 2-1 defeat to Sevilla in October, Luis Enrique's side look well-placed to repeat the feat.

    They come into the match at the Emirates buoyed by a 2-1 win at Las Palmas on Saturday that has kept their closest challengers in La Liga at bay, while they boast arguably Europe's premier marksman in the 41-goal Luis Suarez.

    Arsenal's copybook was blotted on Saturday as they ended a 14-match winning streak in the FA Cup with a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to second-tier Hull City.

    Enrique will be boosted by the return of defender Gerard Pique, who was rested at the weekend, and defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets from suspension.

    German playmaker Mesut Oezil will return tonight, as will Aaron Ramsey. Arsenal will need their big guns in form as their only victory against Barcelona came in 2011 when goals from Robin van Persie and Andrei Arshavin gave them a 2-1 victory in the first leg of their last-16 tie.

    That victory ultimately proved futile, however, as Lionel Messi struck twice in the second leg to secure a 4-3 aggregate win.

    The two sides also met in the 2006 Champions League final, with Barcelona scoring twice late in the second half to win 2-1.