Arsenal host Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday, hoping for a repeat of the last time the two sides met at Emirates Stadium in February 2011, when the Gunners were 2-1 winners.

But the Spanish champions have not lost since 3 October last year – a 2-1 defeat at Seville – and that is one of only three losses this season.

Still, a side boasting the talents of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez can be beaten. All you need is a solid game plan, great performances from every player, huge slices of luck and hope they have an off day.


But is there anything else that can help a side to defeat mighty Barcelona? We’ve had a look at their recent (rare) defeats to see if there are any common themes.

Go hard

Fouls GFX
Athletic Bilbao beat Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup in August and, over two legs, had 10 bookings and a sending off. Seville had five players booked in their La Liga win.

This season, Barcelona’s opponents average just over three bookings per game but the teams to have beaten them average more than four. Maybe the Catalans just don’t like it up ’em?

Espanyol were the last team to take league points off Barcelona with a draw on 2 January. They did it with five bookings. Emboldened, they followed that up with six bookings and two red cards in a cup match four days later. But they clearly got the balance wrong and ended up losing 4-1.

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Using subs wisely

Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid are the only team to have beaten Barcelona in the past three years without using all three substitutes – they used two in a Champions League quarter-final in 2014.

Every other winning team used all their subs – and of the 50 substitutions made by winning teams, exactly half have been made in the last 10 minutes. Of those, 21 were made in the last five minutes. So be ready to wind down the clock as Barcelona pile on the pressure late on.

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Hope they’ve just hammered Levante

Barcelona stat
Barcelona’s 4-1 humbling at the hands of Celta Vigo earlier this season came just three days after a 4-1 win against Levante.

Last season’s 0-1 home defeat to Malaga followed a 5-0 win over Levante, while a 5-1 win over them the previous year was followed up with a home defeat to Valencia.

Barca tend to win big ahead of a loss – eight of their 17 defeats since 2013 have followed a game in which they’ve scored four or more goals.

Be Bilbao. Or Sociedad. Or Celta Vigo.

Barca losses graphic
In La Liga, just four teams have inflicted more than half of Barcelona’s defeats in the past three years.

Real Madrid are the obvious ones, with their fierce rivalry and serious financial backing. Although they’ve only got a 0-4 home defeat to show for it so far this season.

But while not exactly having Barcelona on the run, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad and Celta Vigo have each enjoyed a couple of wins over their illustrious opponents in the past few seasons too.