Barcelona have been the dominant force in La Liga for the past two seasons and their two Champions League victories in the past five seasons make them the closest thing to a European football dynasty at the moment. For the past few seasons, the team that play football the way it is meant to be played has a surprisingly poor away record in the Champions League.
In their last seven away knock-out legs Barca have a record of no wins, five draws and two defeats. Their last away victory in the latter stages of the Champions League was in 2008; a 1-0 victory away at Schalke in which Bojan scored the only goal.
Since that victory Barca have lost to Manchester United and Inter Milan; and drew with Lyon, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Stuttgart and Arsenal on their European travels – an inauspicious record for such a fêted team.
It is worth comparing their away record with the next most successful Champions League team of the past few seasons – Manchester United. Over the same period that Barcelona have W0 D5 L2 away knock-out matches, United have won four games (AC Milan, Porto, Arsenal and Roma), drawn twice and lost once (to Bayern).
Barcelona were humbled in their last away knock out outing against Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan (it’s worth reminding yourself of their fallibility here). Defeats against United and Inter precipitated their elimination from the competition in those seasons. However, the silver lining for Pep Guardiola’s men is that for each of those five draws, they triumphed sufficiently at the Nou Camp for to progress to the next round.
This season the Catalans have gone on a record setting run of victories in La Liga and were unbeaten in a relatively easy group, but even here they showed signs of their travel sickness drawing games in Copenhagen and Kazan. If Arsenal, can take a lead to the Nou Camp they may have enough to progress.
However, Arsene Wenger’s poor Champions League knock-out record may outweigh Barca’s European travel sickness.
Arsenal are the only member of the Big Four in England not have beaten Barcelona in the Champions League. Famously, they lost the 2006 Champions League Final held in Paris to goals from Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti; and last year’s two-legged contest saw Arsenal recover from two goals down at home with 25 minutes left to draw the first leg, only to succumb 4-1 to four Lionel Messi goals in the Nou Camp (remind yourself here).
Previously, the clubs had met in the first group stage in 1999-2000. Arsenal held Barca to a 1-1 away from home, before being beaten 4-2 at Wembley.
The Gunners are big Champions League underachievers – only Dynamo Kiev and PSV Eindhoven have competed in as many seasons of the competition with as little to show for it. In the all time Champions League points table they are placed seventh behind United, Barcelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Juventus – all of whom have won at least one title and appeared in at least three finals.
Arsenal’s record of one final and one other semi-final in 12 consecutive seasons compares poorly with Ajax, Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Liverpool, Monaco and Valencia, who have all achieved more with less opportunity.
Although the recent Champions League head to head record between Premier League and La Liga sides decidedly favours the English, with nine two-legged knockout contests being won to the Spaniards three since the abolition of the second group stage. If Barcelona matches are discounted the tally is six victories to nil, meaning the Barca have a record of three victories and three defeats against English clubs in the knock-out stages since 2003. When you count their final victories at neutral venues against Arsenal and Manchester United you see that they have the edge in the comparison, but not by as much as you might think.