Arsene Wenger proved to be right as the Gunners will face the team that knocked them out in the Champions League in the last season. Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott did wish to meet Barcelona while Lukasz Fabianski said there was a sense of inevitability that they would face the Spanish giants in the knock-out phases.
Barcelona are currently the favourites amongst bookmakers and they will face Arsenal who will not indulge in the negative tactics that they had to deal in the tie against Inter Milan. The Gunners played a rather open game last season which allowed the Blaugrana to flourish at the Emirates.
Theo Walcott said before the draw that they would like to face Barcelona to show that they are much stronger this season compared to the last time they met in the Quarter-Finals. He has got a chance to do just that but they will be aware that Barcelona have also become stronger with the addition of Javier Mascherano and importantly, David Villa.
Lionel Messi made the Arsenal defence look very ordinary as he turned in a performance which is not likely to be forgotten as he gears up to meet the Gunners in February. Wenger and Arsenal have accepted that this is possibly their toughest challenge and will be aware of the threat of the European giants.
It is quite obvious that Barcelona will go into the game as the favourites and considering the superb talent in their armoury, they will be expected to progress. With the weight of expectations off their shoulders, the Gunners should try to enjoy the game while giving their best in order to defeat the former Champions.
The Gunners had a make-shift defensive pairing the last time these two teams met with Alex Song and then, Mikael Silvestre partnering Thomas Vermaelen due to the injuries to Johan Djourou and William Gallas and they suffered as a result of that. Wenger has let William Gallas, Mikael Silvestre and Sol Campbell leave the club and reinforced the defence with the signings of Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci.
Thomas Vermaelen has endured a rather difficult time with injuries this season but should be back for the marquee encounter. Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie should be back to full fitness in recent weeks and should they stay fit, Arsenal will have the men to take the fight to the Spanish champions. Also, Samir Nasri has been the player of the season for Arsenal and presents a major threat to Barcelona while Marouane Chamakh has shown he has the ability to work hard and score goals when necessary.
Barcelona manager highlighted that Samir Nasri would be a major threat for his team and plans will be hatched to stop him from wreaking havoc against their defence. Barcelona were continuously linked with a move for their former youth player and present Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas in the summer but Wenger was able to keep his biggest asset at the Emirates.
In my opinion, Arsenal's chances of qualifying to the next stage will hinge on Cesc Fabregas to a great deal. He has been far from his best and has struggled to gain full fitness following recurring hamstring injuries. But Arsene Wenger is unwilling to risk him too early and he will hopefully completely recover from his injuries.
Cesc Fabregas is Arsenal's best midfielder and despite the emergence of Samir Nasri, the Spaniard is the one who is at the hub of almost all of Arsenal's attacks. He has an air of calm about him and is a leader on the field. He could be closed down by Xavi and Sergio Busquets and needs good support from Denilson and Alex Song.
He is the best in the team in creating chances for his teammates and should he find his goal scoring form of the last season, he could be a huge threat for his former club. He has said in the past that it is his dream to play for Barcelona in the future but Barcelona will know that he will give his full effort for the Gunners' cause.
Cesc Fabregas is the key to Arsenal as his experience will be invaluable in breaking down Barcelona's brilliant passing game. He would dearly love to show his worth for the Gunners and show Barcelona why they did want him in their squad. In my opinion, it could be the performance of Cesc Fabregas which could decide how the Gunners perform against Barcelona.
Wenger was expecting a clash with Barcelona before the draw took place and now that his expectation has come to pass, the French tactician will have to devise a sound strategy to stifle Barcelona's midfield and allow the Gunners to express themselves on the pitch. However, the Gunners should concentrate on the games coming up in the Premiership at present and should they gather the three points against Chelsea, they would be in buoyant mood leading up to the new year.