The Andy Cole Column: Barcelona are not the only team that can end an English club's hopes

Fired Up! Bayern worked hard, closed United down and got better and better during the game

Arsenal were handed a footballing lesson on Wednesday night in the Champions League by the team whose blueprint they seek to follow – not to mention given a fortunate penalty by an incompetent referee.

But Arsène Wenger's side showed they've got some mettle by recovering from 2-0 down to give themselves a chance of reaching the semi-finals. Funnier things happen; Rubin Kazan went to the Nou Camp in October and came away with a 2-1 win when the group stages were still very much live.

Barça are going to be without Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, who will be both be suspended, and they can be susceptible at the back at the best of times, so you never know.

As for Puyol's red card, it's my view, even as a striker, that it was harsh. The counter argument is that Cesc Fabregas was about to swing his leg and score, and any contact, however light, warrants a red card. But if I had had a penalty for every time that had happened in my career, I would have had a few per game.

Puyol was doing little more than watching the ball. Still, Arsenal – who I played for, and admire hugely – will seize the breaks where they fall.

If Pep Guardiola's team had taken their chances in that first half not even the most one-eyed Gooner could have complained if Arsenal had been 3-0 down at the break. It would have been that score at least but for some poor finishing and several fine saves by Manuel Almunia.

Barça bossed that first half using their pass-and-move system, which operates as a 4-2-3-1 in its current incarnation, with flexibility, interchange and quite staggering amounts of effort all over the pitch.

Progressive full-backs flanking powerful centre-halves sit behind a pairing that on Wednesday featured Sergi Busquets and Xavi, with Xavi the fulcrum. Andres Iniesta, when available, is also terrifically important in that area.

Then there is that attacking line of three – Pedro, Lionel Messi and Seydou Keita on Wednesday, but Thierry Henry comes into that sometimes – behind the central front man, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The trio are fluid, dynamic (and clearly a genius in Messi's case) but through the whole team it is all about passing, passing, passing; short, accurate passing, that is. You will count on one hand the long balls Barça will play in a game. It's not their way.

That pass and move continues from start to finish; there is no lumping it towards the end. Remember last season when Barça were 1-0 down at Chelsea in the semi- final second leg and unless they scored they were out? They just kept very level heads and passed and passed until Iniesta's goal took them through right at the end.

Another thing you have to admire about this Barcelona team is their effort in getting the ball back. It is obvious all their players are comfortable on the ball – they treasure it, that's a given for a footballer at that club. They keep possession for minutes at a time. But when they lose it, they work as hard as any team I have seen in getting it back. It is that tenacity that also makes them great.

Yet Arsenal got the draw; and that says much about them. They went from 2-0 down on the hour to 2-2 thanks in no small part to Theo Walcott's introduction, pace, and goal. The penalty was reward for second-half persistence even though I think it was soft. The other winners on the night were any neutrals who tuned in to a treat.

Can Arsenal go to the Nou Camp and get a result to go through? I have to think they'll struggle because Barça have got those two away goals, and will generally score at home, so they will rightly be the clear favourites. But the absence of key players on both teams will make it interesting. If we get another match of the calibre of this week's we'll be lucky.

Manchester United face a tough job in the second leg of their own quarter-final, against Bayern Munich, after losing 2-1 in Germany on Tuesday. United did not play especially well; aside from Wayne Rooney's early goal I think there was only one other real chance in the 90 minutes and it was saved. Bayern, in contrast, were good. They worked hard, they closed United down, they got better and better as the game went on, and did for United late on.

Nobody should expect a stroll for United in the second leg. A 1-0 win would be terrific, but food for thought: Bayern have scored in every away game in the competition this season: 10 goals in four games.

The fee for Andy Cole's column is donated to Alder Hey hospital and sickle cell anaemia research. He works on charitable projects with the sport and media team at law firm Thomas Eggar

News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn