Barcelona, top of the world, are top dogs Arsenal can only hope to be lucky against

With Luis Enrique’s side at the peak of their power, Arsenal will need luck to prevail in their Champions League last 16 showdown at Emirates Stadium, writes Andy Mitten.

Barcelona's Neymar, second from right, celebrates a goal with teammates Lionel Messi, second from left, and Luis Suarez during their Primera Liga match against Las Palmas at the Gran Canaria stadium in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on February 20, 2016. / AFP / JAIME REINA
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Barcelona go into their Uefa Champions League last 16 game at Arsenal on Tuesday night on top of the world.

They are unbeaten in a club record 32 games since an October 3 defeat at Sevilla, during which time they have 26 wins, drawn six, scored 104 and conceded 19.

There is not a team in the world to touch them at present. They have won everything there is to win, unifying football’s trophies under Luis Enrique.

They have no new injuries and a squad bolstered by two additions being able to play since January.

On Saturday, they moved eight points clear of Atletico Madrid – and nine clear of Real Madrid – with their narrow win at Las Palmas, with the Catalan press chiding Zinedine Zidane’s side. “From -2 to -9, has the ‘Zidane effect’ become ‘the Zidane defect’? asked Sport as Real fall further away from their great rivals.

Last Wednesday, they won their game in hand at Sporting Gijon, a match they missed out in December while being crowned world champions.

Lionel Messi scored his 300th Primera Liga goal against the former club of Enrique.

Barca’s record against Arsenal, a team they have met frequently in the Champions League, is also exceptional.

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They beat them in the 2006 final as the Catalan side won only a second European Cup in Paris.

They have a Sala Paris room at Camp Nou – and have since added a Sala Roma, Wembley and Berlin. They hope to add Milano in May.

Barca knocked Arsenal out in 2010 and 2011, the year they signed Arsenal’s best player, the Catalan Cesc Fabregas.

Barca have long made it a habit to sign Arsenal’s finest players from Thierry Henry to Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit plus lesser lights including Gio van Bronkhorst, Alex Song, Alexander Hleb and Thomas Vermaelen.

Although Arsenal signed Alexis Sanchez after his slightly underwhelming stint at Camp Nou, the pecking order is clear: Barca have long been the top dogs.

When they met in the group stage in 2000, current boss Luis Enrique scored in both games against the London side, but Barca are nervous about the future financial might of Premier League teams and fear the order could change.

Arsenal have lost the first leg at home each time they have reached the last 16, against Bayern Munich in 2013 and 2014, then against Monaco last year.

They have not reached the quarter-finals for six years.

In contrast, Barcelona are the most consistent Champions League performers in the last decade winning the competition four times.

It does not look good for Arsenal against the best team in the world, the only team who came through the group stage with an unbeaten away record, but Arsene Wenger’s men are in form.

They have lost only one of their last 18 games and they are favourites to win a first Premier League title since 2004.

They are also up against a team who have yet to suffer from a dip in form thus far.

There has not been a season, even among the Catalan club’s most stellar years, when they have not had a tumble. It usually happens in February, not that it has looked like happening this month when they put seven past Valencia and six past Celta Vigo.

That is all the more surprising given the demands on Barca are relentless, but their intensity and consistency is holding up to the challenges. They have picked up four more points than at the same stage last season and have also played every midweek since October’s international break.

In the last week, they’ve flown to Gijon and Las Palmas, which is twice the distance of the trip to London for tonight’s game.

The front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez are peerless, yet there are still issues around the team which Arsenal will seek to exploit at home.

Barca full-backs Jordi Alba and Dani Alves have been mediocre of late. Barca have had good fortune this season with injuries and in games. Arsenal’s hopes will be resting on some luck of their own.

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