Ian February 23, 20167:42 pm

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! It’s the First Leg of the Champions League Round of Sixteen this evening – the second week of this weirdly elongated stage of the competition, and it’s Arsenal against Barcelona. Arsenal could be on for a treble in England this season. The Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League are all very much still in their sights. They’ve got formidable opposition tonight, though, in the form of Barcelona, the current first loves of aesthetes everywhere. With this being the First Leg, there’s still a return on Catalunya to play, so Arsenal will be hoping for a nice big lead to take with them. Hoping. But anyway, Here’s some teams.

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud. Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Walcott, Flamini, Chambers, Welbeck, Campbell.

Barcelona: ter Stegen, Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta, Suarez, Messi, Neymar. Subs: Bravo, Munir, Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Aleix Vidal, Vermaelen, Mathieu.

And here’s what happened ten years ago, when they met in the Champions League final in Paris.

Ian February 23, 20167:45 pm

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen! It’s the First Leg of the Champions League Round of Sixteen this evening – the second week of this weirdly elongated stage of the competition, and it’s Arsenal against Barcelona. Arsenal could be on for a treble in England this season. The Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League are all very much still in their sights. They’ve got formidable opposition tonight, though, in the form of Barcelona, the current first loves of aesthetes everywhere. With this being the First Leg, there’s still a return on Catalunya to play, so Arsenal will be hoping for a nice big lead to take with them. Hoping. But anyway, Here’s some teams.

Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud. Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Walcott, Flamini, Chambers, Welbeck, Campbell.

Barcelona: ter Stegen, Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta, Suarez, Messi, Neymar. Subs: Bravo, Munir, Sergi Roberto, Adriano, Aleix Vidal, Vermaelen, Mathieu.

Ian February 23, 20167:47 pm

Arsenal in red and white, shooting from left to right in the first half, if you can imagine watching it on a television. Barcelona are in blue. The match is being refereed by Borussia Dortmund, for some reason*

*it’s not really, they’re just wearing yellow and black.

Ian February 23, 20167:54 pm

Best chance of the opening few minutes for Arsenal, there. Break on the left hand side and the ball is dragged back, but… oh… it’s the wrong ball. Elsewhere, a first yellow card of the evening for Nacho Monreal. Oh Nacho, nacho man.

Ian February 23, 20167:57 pm

Barcelona are stroking the ball around as if they own it at the moment, so how about a goal update from the altogether more prosaic Football League Championship. Bristol City 0-1 Brighton. Brighton got their buttocks handed to them on a plate by Cardiff at the weekend, so that’s good news for 200% podcast host Edward Carter.

Ian February 23, 20168:02 pm

This has been an encouraging start from Arsenal. Barcelona have had 70% of the possession – ever was this sort of thing thus – but they’ve looked dangerous when they’ve broken, which hasn’t been particularly irregularly.

Ian February 23, 20168:08 pm

This is taking a while to wake up, so another Championship goal. Leeds 0-1 Fulham. Think of Steve Evan’s happy little face. And whatever you do, don’t type “Leeds United Managers” into Google unless you want a fright. I learnt that the hard way last night.

Ian February 23, 20168:16 pm

Still kind of non-descript in North London. Brighton have doubled their lead at Bristol City, and Middlesbrough and Cardiff are tied at one each.

Ian February 23, 20168:20 pm

Best chances so far have gone to Arsenal. .A pull-back from Ozil to Hector Bellerin ended in a blocked shot but the ball fell to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose low shot was blocked. Had he put it anywhere other than where he, umm, did, he’d have scored.

Ian February 23, 20168:28 pm

A couple of other Championship goals: Birmingham 1-0 Bolton, Leeds 1-1 Fulham, Preston 1-1 Charlton. Three minutes to play in the first half at The Emirates, and Arsenal have kept Barcelona in their box quite effectively so far.

Ian February 23, 20168:33 pm

Thomas Muller has scored for Bayern in Turin against Juventus. Two chances for Luis Suarez fr Barcelona from either side of the goal, one dragged back towards Messi which was cleared, the other across the face of goal and wide. Half-time and it’s goalless, with not a great deal to report

Ian February 23, 20168:40 pm

A quick half-time summary. Barcelona dominated possession, just as we would have expected, but Arsenal have been successful in shutting down Barcelona’s attack when it’s got to around thirty yards from goal, and Suarez’s two half-chances at the end of the half were as much they’ve been able to manage so far. Arsenal have had the two best chances, both fell to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and both he would have expected to score, most likely. How many more chances like that can Arsenal pass up this evening? Because you really feel that they need something more than a goalless draw from this match.

Ian February 23, 20168:46 pm

That UEFA Respect advert on the television is a very noble cause, and it’s probably wrong of me that one of the things that I take from it is that Europe’s premier footballers are, on the whole, a funny looking bunch, but there we go.

Ian February 23, 20168:51 pm

Two and a half minutes into the second half, and Barcelona break on the left. Neymar gets behind his marker and his shot is blocked by Cech’s legs. The best chance Barcelona have had, so far.

Ian February 23, 20168:54 pm

Substitution for Arsenal. Walcott on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who collided towards the end of the first half with Javier Mascherano and doesn’t appear to have recovered. Considering the extent to which he was hobbling, it’s a little surprising that he even came out for the second half, but never underestimate the belief of the professional footballer in “running it off.”

Ian February 23, 20169:02 pm

Barcelona still pushing and prodding at Arsenal, but the crowd are starting to wake up a little with a few niggly tackles to get them booing and outraged.

Ian February 23, 20169:03 pm

Best chance of the game so far for Arsenal, a cross from the left hand side and Olivier Giroud, ten yards out, heads down and towards the corner but that’s an absolutely splendid save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Ian February 23, 20169:08 pm

So they are human after all, then. The ball bobbles around the Barcelona like it’s ten o’clock on a Sunday morning, before Ramsey swings a leg of lamb at the ball and sends it curling off towards the corner flag.

Ian February 23, 20169:09 pm

Suarez has been by some distance Barcelona’s most dangerous player this evening. He gets a little space and drills a low cross-cum-shot across the face of goal, but it ends up being six of none and half a dozen of neither.

Ian February 23, 20169:16 pm

Ah, the counter-attack. Arsenal 0-1 Barcelona. The visitors break with Neymar from a Pique clearance. He rolls the ball to Suarez, who passes inside for Lionel Messi to leave Cech on his backside and drives the ball into the empty goal. Tough on Arsenal, it has to be said. It’s Messi’s twenty-eighth goal of the season.

Ian February 23, 20169:18 pm

I’ve just watched a replay of the goal. I’m not saying that Lionel Messi is faster than Usain Bolt, but I am saying that Usain Bolt would not be able to run that quickly and then hold his composure to score with such confidence.

Ian February 23, 20169:21 pm

Barcelona are starting to settle into a languid groove now. Messi to Neymar, Neymar to Suarez and – I’m not going to lie, friends – Suarez should score from ten yards, but his low show thumps against the post and bounces out.

Ian February 23, 20169:23 pm

Danny Welbeck heads the ball down for Aaron Ramsey, but he’s too close to the goalkeeper to be able to poke it either side of him, and ter Stegen blocks the ball with his inner thigh, which is much sexier sounding than it actually looked.

Ian February 23, 20169:24 pm

Substitution for Arsenal. Coquellin off, Flamini on.

Ian February 23, 20169:26 pm

Arsenal 0-2 Barcelona: What was that, twenty seconds? Flamini runs onto the pitches, sprints over to Lionel Messi, upends him, and Barcelona have a penalty. Messi picks himself up, scores the penalty (rather than dicking about with it), and that, I rather suspect, is that for this tie.

Ian February 23, 20169:27 pm

Yellow card for Gerard Pique, who will now miss the return leg of this match. I’m going to hazard a guess that he might have meant to do that, to get the suspension out of the way.

Ian February 23, 20169:31 pm

Is *this* peak Arsenal?

Ian February 23, 20169:31 pm

Is *this* peak Arsenal?

The greatest 3 tweet story in the history of twitter pic.twitter.com/JmzRdtw3lo

— keir (@Kingkeir) February 23, 2016

Ian February 23, 20169:33 pm

Great save from Petr Cech, a cross from the right finds Neymar at the far post, and his header is pawed around the post.

Ian February 23, 20169:38 pm

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. Make no mistake about it, this wasn’t the comfortable stroll in the park for Barcelona that some might have anticipated. A reckless tackle from Matthieu Flamini gave Barcelona a veneer of cushion about the result, but had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain taken one or both of his first half chances, this might have been a very different story. The tie probably is just about over – how anybody could overturn a two goal deficit against this Barcelona team is anybody’s guess, but Arsenal gave a decent enough account of themselves and can probably feel a little hard done by. Always next year, chaps.

Meanwhile, we’ll be back in the morning with our daily Video of the Day, and some more writing later on in the day or in the early evening. Thanks for stopping by. It’s been emotional.