Arsenal resume their European duties with the most daunting set of fixtures on the planet – a two-legged tie with reigning Champions League holders Barcelona.
The Catalans are currently 32 games unbeaten in all competitions, sitting top of La Liga, and they are odds-on favourites to beat Sevilla in the Copa Del Rey final this coming May.
Barca, spearheaded by Neymar, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, won five trophies in 2015 and it would come as little surprise to see them at least match that tally by the end of this year.
But to do that they must overcome Arsenal, and while the odds are not in the Gunners’ favour, they do have the capabilities to surprise the Spanish giants and this week will be critical to their chances.
The North London club first play hosts, and they will be well aware that conceding a couple of away goals will make their task of progression all the more difficult in the return leg at the Nou Camp.
As such, boss Arsene Wenger must counter the Barca threat in the same way he culled Bayern Munich.
The graphic above illustrates a potential best Arsenal XI for the visit of Luis Enrique’s men, a team full of pace and designed to really hit their opponents on the counterattack.
The obvious exclusion is regular centre-back Per Mertesacker, replaced by left-back Nacho Monreal.
While this may appear odd, it is worth taking into account Mertesacker’s record against mobile strikers and they do not come any more difficult than Barca’s leading goal-scorer Luis Suarez.
Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal together are ideal for stopping five time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, while Laurent Koscielny and Hector Bellerin’s pace is perfect against Suarez and Neymar.
Flooding the midfield with energy and aggression is important, while the pace on the counter through Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be Arsenal’s best shot.
The hosts are likely to concede possession to their opponents, while high pressing and sharp counters can hurt Barca in the same way Bayern Munich were undone earlier in the campaign.
It promises to be an enthralling evening, and playing this system with Olivier Giroud coming off the bench late on could be Wenger’s side’s best hope of going to the Nou Camp with the tie still in the balance.