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Stewart Coggin

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By March 19, 2010

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It was the tie that everyone wanted to see. It was the tie that coaches Josep Guardiola and Arsene Wenger would have preferred to avoid.

Arsenal and Barcelona will face-off in the Champions League quarter-finals as two of soccer's style icons take to the catwalks of London and Catalonia.

A more aesthetically pleasing European encounter could not have been wished for. Both sides specialize in weaving pretty patterns, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Andrey Arshavin all experts in picking the lock of even the most stubborn of rearguards.

Then there is the king of them all: Lionel Messi. The Argentinean has dazzled the Camp Nou crowd in the last two fixtures, 3-0 and 4-0 defeats of Valencia and Stuttgart respectively. The 22-year-old scored five goals over the two matches, prompting some critics to suggest he is more advanced than the great Diego Maradona was at the same stage in his career.

Arguably the finest goal of the Champions League second-round was scored by Arsenal's Samir Nasri, who flummoxed the Porto defense before scoring from a tight angle.

These players are all under six foot, and Barcelona have proved that physical prowess is not the decisive factor in producing a successful team; they won every competition in which they played in 2009.

Arsenal have been accused of lacking the muscle that helped them win the league in 2004. Wenger's side have been labelled a 'Barcelona lite' by some critics who acknowledge their attempts to imitate the Catalans' style, but claim they possess inferior players and a weaker mentality.

Here is Arsenal's opportunity to disprove that theory.

Photo © Getty Images


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