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Arthur is Barcelona’s answer to the threat posed by Lyon’s Nabil Fekir

The two teams meet in the Champions League

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - Copa del Rey Semi Final Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

FC Barcelona are getting ready to face Lyon in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16. After having witnessed the dramatic exits of some Europe’s elite teams Barça are in a great place to make a run at reconquering the old continent’s most prestigious and sought after piece of silverware.

But watching the likes of Real Madrid get outclassed at the hands of Ajax (aka Voetbal Totaal 3.0), Atletico suffering a Cristiano in knockout mode, and PSG crashing out in what can only be described as in classic PSG-like fashion, I’d like to innocently (and most probably ignorantly) think that I’m risk free of being called a pessimist when I say that it’s not inconceivable to imagine a scenario where Lyon could at the minimum stifle Barça from the get-go with their running game.

Despite most results going Barça’s way this season, we’ve seen far too many teams manage to disorientate them. With tonight’s match being a win or go home matter, Barcelona need to be wary but also poised. Notwithstanding their dominance and plethora of chances created in the first leg, what must not be ignored was the amount of times the French team found themselves in front of Marc-Andre ter Stegen taking uncontested shots. Five too many for the liking and comfort of any Cule. Luckily for los Blaugrana they were poorly taken. But this time, Lyon can count on the return of Nabil Fekir

Olympique Lyonnais v Manchester City - UEFA Champions League Group F Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

With their reference midfielder/forward on the pitch, Olympique de Lyon are much closer to scoring goals. Thanks to his dangerous left foot and pinpoint vision to slot in the deadly pass he can create havoc at any given moment. Having netted 12 goals and given seven assists in all competition so far this season, the attack-minded player knows the hopes of his fans are set upon him. “It’s normal for the fans to expect a lot from me in this match and we know it’s going to be a tough match, but we’ll do our best,” he told reporters ahead of the match.

It goes without saying that there’s no better place for him to give his best then at one of the world’s most prestigious stage, the Camp Nou, where he will face his idol in Leo Messi. “For me Messi is the best player in the world, as he has been at the top for ten years and he is decisive for his team every year,” he added.

With rumors regarding his future surrounding the French Algerian, Barça must find a way to stop this young, skilful and ambitious player from getting into his comfort zone, which has given his side positive results. The most effective thing FC Barcelona can do is to try to manage to control this game to the best of their ability. In that sense, there’s perhaps no better news for Barça that they’ll be able to count on their midfielder Arthur Melo.

Cultural Leonesa v FC Barcelona - Spanish Copa del Rey Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

With Arthur, Barcelona are much better at governing everything that happens on the pitch and deactivating the threats of opponents. In other words, with the Brazilian out there we should see Fekir intervene less.

At the risk of stating the obvious, with the scoreline being a dangerous one for the Catalan side, Arthur plays a crucial factor in avoiding losing possession of the ball. Any dispossession or a misplaced pass could cost Barça dearly, especially with a plausible score of 2-1 where you’d expect Lyon’s press to be suffocating.

Barça need to approach this match determined to impose the brand of football, which has brought them success since the Johan Cruijff era. Playing a calm, controlled passing game starting from the back, while smothering Lyon when they have the ball in order to recover possession before the can break away on the counter. These key elements will depend hugely on Arthur Melo, who will undoubtedly keenly bring the ball up the pitch but will likely play less of a factor when it comes to finishing off the plays in front of Lopes’ goal. The Barça forwards will want to improve their efficiency with respects to the first tie after forgiving them a whopping 25 times.

Anything less than this would be a risk of giving a beacon of hope to Fekir’s Lyon, a particularly dangerous opponent when given the space to break free on the counterattack.

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