Arsenal beware – Barça vow to turn up the heat

Euro Zone
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The good news for Arsenal fans is that Pep Guardiola has admitted there will be no repeat of Barcelona's whirlwind start at the Emirates last week when the two sides meet again on Tuesday night at the Nou Camp.

"Eleven shots on goal in 15 minutes only happens once in a lifetime," said the Barcelona coach ahead of tonight's home league match with Athletic Bilbao. The bad news is that Guardiola did assure Barça supporters there would be no let-up in the intensity shown by his players, not only with but also without the ball in London, in the return match.

"In the last few games we have gone up a gear in terms of being competitive, moving the ball around quickly and pressing with intensity and that has to continue," added the Barça coach, who is all too aware a slip against sixth-placed Bilbao could be costly in the title race.

Barça are level on points with Real Madrid who go to Racing Santander's El Sardinero stadium tomorrow – a ground where they are traditionally waved on through to pick up three points.

Guardiola said: "They [Athletic Bilbao] are full of confidence and if we are thinking about the Arsenal game instead of this one then we will lose." The visitors lie just two points off the Champions League places and only three teams have a better defensive record away from home this season.

Barcelona made it back home at 5am on Thursday morning after a two-hour delay at Luton Airport, following the midweek first leg and Bilbao midfielder Javi Martinez believes the fatigue and the looming second leg could play into the visitors' hands. "There is so much at stake for them in the next few games and it will be hard for them not to have their minds on other games," he said. "If we concentrate on our own game then I think we can beat them."

Next up in the League for Barcelona is El Clasico but Guardiola played down suggestions it was the game that would decide the title. "If we win all the others and lose that one we would have a great opportunity to be champions," he said. "There will still be 21 points to play for after that game." Andres Iniesta looks like being fit for that match but is unlikely to figure against Arsenal.

Barcelona have Dani Alves out suspended for tonight's game so Carles Puyol will play at right-back with either Gabi Milito, Yaya Touré or Rafael Marquez playing alongside Gerard Pique in the centre of Barcelona's back four. Guardiola must pick two of those three on Tuesday because both Pique and Puyol are suspended.

Bayern mirror Red Devils with 'title decider' against Schalke

Just after Manchester United play a so-called title decider this afternoon, Bayern Munich must contest their own. Having lost their last two games in the league, United's Champions League opponents are two points adrift of leaders Schalke and travel to Gelsenkirchen knowing defeat would hand their rivals a major opportunity to win their first title since 1958. Arjen Robben could be back in Louis van Gaal's starting line-up as Bayern look to head for Old Trafford on Wednesday night back on top of the Bundesliga.

Balotelli's about-turn finds favour with Mourinho

Internazionale's Mario Balotelli apologised to Jose Mourinho last night and was duly recalled to the squad for Inter's match with Bologna today. After arguments over whether he did or did not have a fever ahead of a match against Genoa on 7 March, and a public flirtation with city rivals Milan, the 19-year-old striker spent six matches in the stands but could be back in the team today after rethinking his original decision not to say sorry.

Comments