While Arsenal have their own marquee match-up on Wednesday, February 19, against reigning Champions League holders Bayern Munich, there is no doubting that the pick of the Round of 16 is the tussle between attack-happy duo Barcelona and Manchester City, with the first leg to be competed at the Etihad Stadium this evening, Tuesday.
Writing on his Eurosport blog, Arsene Wenger commented: 'This is the confrontation we've all been waiting for because Manchester City are currently in great shape, and everybody always respects Barcelona a lot.'
Across the media, pundits such as Richard Keys have spoken about a decline in standards at Camp Nou while the Etihad has proven a slaying ground for City as they have, in Premier League competition this season, averaged approximately four goals scored in every match. Regardless of any inferiority in the current Barca squad compared to teams in the past, Wenger still believes there is enough talent to challenge in the competition.
'People are a wondering how strong Barcelona really are. If you’d ask me truthfully if they're still dominating Europe as they did for some years, I’d say no. But can they still win the Champions League? I’d say yes. They still have exceptional and extraordinary technical skill but they seem less stable in their results, in their way of playing mostly.'
Can City claim a famous scalp, then? 'It will really be 50/50 for me. Maybe with Manchester City slight favourites, since they have nothing to lose, but real have potential.'
Concluding, Wenger - who has his own European tie to prep his Gunners for as Arsenal face Bayern Munich tomorrow, Wednesday - said: 'I’ll be very curious to see this game… I love Barcelona, I really like the way they play.
'They are still facing a team with a very important offensive power. They will have to be really strong in defence to stop Manchester City scoring.'
image: © Matt and Kim Rudge