John Hartson: Why Arsenal can beat Barcelona

John Hartson believes Alexis Sanchez could inspire Arsenal to surprise victory over Barcelona in Champions League

John Hartson believes Alexis Sanchez could inspire Arsenal to a surprise victory over his former club Barcelona in the Champions League last 16.

The Gunners striker missed their dramatic 3-0 win against Olympiacos in Greece last week as the north London side completed a remarkable group-stage comeback and booked their place in the knockout-stage draw.

If they can get him back for that game I think they have a real chance I really do

Alexis Sanchez

Sanchez has been sidelined with a hamstring problem since a 1-1 draw with Norwich City in late November, although the Chile international returned to the UK this week ahead of an anticipated return to first-team training.

And Hartson believes the £35m striker holds the key to Arsenal’s hopes of beating Luis Enrique’s side over two legs after the Gunners were drawn against Barcelona in Monday’s Champions League last-16 draw.

“Listen, don’t get me wrong Barcelona and Bayern Munich are the favourites for the competition,” Hartson told talkSPORT.

“But I fancy Arsenal to do something.

“They are in good form at the moment. They went to Olympiacos knowing they needed to win 2-0 and ended up winning 3-0 with a great performance.

“And they have done all that without (Alexis) Sanchez so if they can get him back for that game I think they have a real chance I really do.”

The Premier League leaders will face La Liga’s pace-setters in a repeat of the 2006 final Paris, which Barcelona won 2-1 against 10-man Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger’s side have faced Spanish side Barcelona or Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich in the knockout stage in three of the past five Champions League seasons.

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Arsenal suffered a 4-3 aggregate defeat by Barcelona in their most recent meeting at the last-16 stage in 2011.

The Gunners also exited the Champions League at the quarter-final stage after a 6-3 loss to the Catalan side in 2010.

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