The draw for the Champions League round of 16 has been decided and Arsenal will have the honour of facing reigning champions Barcelona the team's next match. The Gunners narrowly escaped having to deal with Bayern Munich during the group stage, but it's just Arsene Wenger's luck that they're going up against the other dominant squad in the tournament in order to advance. The team will have their work cut out for them if they hopes to survive the knockout round, though there are definitely some bright points on the horizon.
Thankfully, the next round of games won't begin until February 2016, at which point Arsenal's squad will be bolstered by the return of many players who have been sidelined with various injuries during the first half of the season. This includes former Barcelona striker Alexis Sanchez, who will go up against his former team after finding greener pastures in the Premier League.
Sanchez is due to return in time for Arsenal's holiday match against Manchester City. Also, forward Danny Welbeck and midfielders Jack Wilshere, Francis Coquelin and Tomas Rosicky are all due back by February 2016. Considering how well Arsenal has managed to perform without some of their arguably most important players, we can only imagine how much better the team will be once they return. This could provide the best opportunity for the team to beat Barcelona, whom Arsenal have been forced to face three times in the last five years. The two teams also met in the heart-stopping 2006 Champions League final that saw the Gunners fall to the Blaugrana, 2-1.
Barcelona will surely present the toughest challenge for the Gunners this season. With the front line of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar firing on all cylinders, it will take an incredible performance from Arsenal to emerge victorious. The attacking half of Barcelona is one of the most lethal in football with Messi being given 5/6 odds to score in any given match and Neymar priced at 11/8 to score in his own right. When you toss in a ridiculous Suarez who has already scored five goals in this year's tournament, you have a recipe for one of the most devastating attacks in football.
Arsenal have been knocked out of the round of 16 for the last six years, and they'll be doing all they can to avoid a repeat of the same fate. However, with Olivier Giroud playing like a man possessed and a slew of healthy players adding some desperately needed depth, this is probably Arsenal's best chance to escape the knock-out round. If Barcelona has an off night and Arsenal can continue to perform at their current level, anything is possible for the Gunners.