The day football enthusiasts all over the globe have been waiting for has finally arrived. Arsenal vs Barcelona is a mouth-watering clash for all football fans and will no doubt be a display of football at its highest quality. Both sides have near identical philosophies and an array of world-class players who are capable of turning a game.
Arsene Wenger is faced with the toughest question a manager can ask himself...how do I beat Barcelona? Over 180 minutes, his Arsenal side will have to pull out all the stops if they are to cause an upset in this intriguing tie. With the use of Castrol stats, we've taken a look at two key head-to-heads along with some stats from last seasons quarter-final match.
Charged with the task of providing their forwards with a never-ending supply of goal-scoring chances on Wednesday are Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas and Barca's Xavi.
Xavi has continued on from his magnificent form during the 2010 World Cup finals, and has already provided five goal assists and a total of 50 chances created. However, his young compatriot has been even more creative in the Premier League. Providing nine goal assists, a figure only three players can better at this stage of the season.
However, while Fabregas also compares favourably to Xavi in terms of tackling, the experienced Barca man is still the fulcrum of his club's play, making an incredible 119 touches per game on average and posting a 94% passing accuracy rate, both superior figures to those of Fabregas.
In the Champions League, Xavi has managed just the one goal assist so far (and no goals), although he has hit a competition-high 366 accurate passes in the opposition half. Arsenal captain Fabregas, on the other hand, has already bagged three goals and provided two goal assists.
Castrol Performance data shows that, in Robin Van Persie, Arsenal have a striker in the form of his career, with the Dutchman netting a fantastic 10 goals in the league in 2011 so far.
Indeed, that haul in less than two months of the new year is the best ever figure for a striker in January and February of a Premier League season, with still some time in the latter month left to go. The Dutchman, now free from injury, has also registered a 1.5 games per goal rate in the league, his best performance since moving to Arsenal in 2004.
However, if any player could top Van Persie's fantastic form, it has to be Barcelona's diminutive genius, Lionel Messi. In the league, the Argentinean has averaged a goal every 75 minutes while he has also notched 15 assists in his 20 games.
In the Champions League, while Van Persie has managed only one game (scoring one goal), Messi has been in typical inspirational form, scoring 13 goals in his last 11 Champions League starts including four in one game against Arsenal last season.
Castrol Performance data shows that Arsenal will know what to expect after their quarter-final clash with Barcelona last season.
Over the two legs, Barcelona asserted their total domination of the ball, completing 654 passes more than the Gunners. Pep Guardiola's were too much to handle over the two legs, unleashing 37 shots, that's one every five minutes. Nearly half of those attempts found the target (18).
Lionel Messi alone had nearly twice as many shots on target as the Gunners, testing Manuel Almunia nine times, four of which found the back of the net. Arsène Wenger will be warned to wrestle the initiative away from Barcelona early on. Last season, Arsenal were battered in the first-half of their first leg at the Emirates.
It's the most anticipated match of the 2010/11 Champions League so far. As always, we'd love to hear your opinions - for Arsenal to stand any chance, do they HAVE to avoid defeat in this first leg at the Emirates?