Arsenal kick off their Champions League group stage with a trip to defending champions Barcelona on Tuesday evening. It’s the first time the Women’s Champions League has had a group stage since it was rebranded from the Women’s UEFA Cup. The Gunners have also drawn Hoffenheim and Danish side Køge.
This is the game with the big red ring around it, however. Arsenal have enjoyed a perfect start to life under new coach Jonas Eidevall with nine wins from nine so far. His Gunners side might have conquered Chelsea and thumped Manchester City 5-0 this season but they have not played a team of Barca’s quality simply because there isn’t a team of their quality on the continent.
— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) October 2, 2021
This match will be a stern examination of Arsenal’s credentials as they play the continent’s best team away from home. Barca are used to having things their own way and defeated both Manchester City and Chelsea en route to winning the competition last season. To put things in perspective, a point would be a monumental result for Arsenal and a real indication that they could challenge to win this trophy.
That said, Arsenal can really view this match as something of a free swing. Hoffenheim and Køge will not take any points from Barca in this group, Eidevall’s side will know in private that they are playing for second place in this group and the games against the current champions will not be the ones that decide this group.
Once again, Arsenal will only be without Simone Boye Sorensen (knee) and Malin Gut (ACL) for the trip to Catalan. Everyone else in the squad is currently fit and available for selection.
GOALKEEPERS: 1.Zinsberger, 18.Williams, 28.Cull
DEFENDERS: 3.Wubben-Moy, 4.Patten, 5.Beattie, 6.Williamson, 7.Catley, 16.Maritz, 22.Schnaderbeck, 29.Goldie
MIDFIELDERS: 8.Nobbs, 10.Little, 12.Maanum, 13.Wälti, 23.Iwabuchi
FORWARDS: 9.Mead, 11.Miedema, 14.Parris, 15.McCabe, 19.Foord, 77.Heath
LAST TIME OUT
The teams met in the competition back in 2012 and Arsenal were runaway winners 7-0 on aggregate. They won the first leg in Spain 3-0 thanks to goals from Jen Beattie, Jordan Nobbs and Katie Chapman and then won the home leg 4-0 with a hat-trick from Jen Beattie and a goal from Kim Little.
The current European champions, last season they won the Primera Iberdrola by 25 points last season, notching up a goal difference of +152 across 34 games. So far this season, they have won all five of their league games scoring 35 goals and conceding only once. In last season’s Champions League Final, they thumped Chelsea 4-0 (lol).
They’re quite good. In Alexia Putellas they have quite possibly the best player in Europe alongside Vivianne Miedema and they also boast talent like Jenni Hermoso, Lieke Martens, Caroline Graham Hansen, Ingrid Engen, Irene Paredes and Patri. A good deal of their squad has been developed via La Masia and they play the sort of football Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona played. They are quite good.
⭐ [PROPER PARTIT!] ⭐
— CAMP🏆🏆🏆ONES (@FCBfemeni) October 3, 2021
PLAYER TO WATCH
In the likes of Alexia, Patri and Ingrid Engen, Barca have the best midfield in the world. The way they keep and circulate the ball and strangle teams through possession is without equal in world football. This will be a test of Kim Little’s mettle, not only because Arsenal will not dominate possession here but because Barca press so well on the rare occasions that they do cough up the ball.
Kim is a supreme dribbler in tight spaces and very economical in possession. She won’t see as much of the ball as she usually does but when she does get it she will need to be as precise as a brushstroke. Barca can also be got at if (and it’s an enormous ‘if’) you can get the ball off them. Arsenal will need to release it quickly and attack the space Barca leaves and Little will be crucial in that respect too.
Subs: 3.Wubben-Moy, 4.Patten, 7.Catley, 8.Nobbs, 14.Parris, 18.Williams, 19.Foord, 22.Schnaderbeck, 77.Heath.
HOW TO CATCH THE GAME
The game takes place at 8pm UK time (9pm local time) Tuesday at the Estadio Johan Cruyff. The match is being screened live and free of charge on the DAZN YouTube channel. You do not require a paid subscription to watch.
Your complete guide to the @UWCL is right here 👌
— DAZN Football (@DAZNFootball) October 3, 2021
We’ll have match reaction from Jonas Eidevall on the site on Tuesday evening. If you haven’t listened already, Tim and Alex Ibaceta got together to preview the game on the latest episode of the Arsenal Women Arsecast too, which you can listen to here.