Quarter-final, first leg – Kick-off: 20-45 (CET)
Arsene Wenger says his Arsenal side have no reason to be daunted as they host holders and this year’s favourites, Barcelona, noting: “Our desire and belief in ourselves can make the difference.”
Wenger also vowed Thierry Henry would get “the ovation he deserves” as he returns to Arsenal with Barcelona, but added that there would be no room for sentiment once their Champions League quarter-final kicked off.
“We were in the final in 2006 against Barcelona, although we had a big handicap early in that one [Jens Lehmann’s red card], but both teams have moved on,” said the Arsenal boss. “We have a good opportunity to show we can beat them. The last time we played against them, in the final, it was a one-off. This time tactics will have a greater role, but you can never see a dull game between two teams like that.
“We are happy to see Thierry Henry back here and he will get the ovation he deserves, but when the game starts it will be a Champions League quarter-final and we will do everything to beat him.
“The good thing with Barcelona is that there are many players to stop so we don’t have to worry about one. I don’t want the team to focus on the threat of Barcelona; we have to play our game. Our desire and belief in ourselves can make the difference. At our best, I believe we can beat any team in the world.”
Arsenal have Cesc Fabregas doubtful, while Andrés Iniesta is out for Barcelona but Josep Guardiola, who talked up his opponents, believes the holders can cope.
“Our aim will be to score an away goal and try to win the match,” he said. But we know we will have to be very, very careful, and that we will have to play well. We have to be focused – we are up against one of the best teams in the world over the past ten to 15 years.
“Arsenal are a phenomenal team with a great coach in Mr Wenger. A lot of people enjoy watching their style of football. They are daring and dynamic. We will need to defend well, but you can’t do that if you don’t attack well too.
“Thierry Henry is, obviously, a player who still has Arsenal in his heart. He is returning home, but the most important thing for him is to do a good job. We also have to deal with Andrés Iniesta’s absence as he is a very important player for us. He keeps the ball better than anyone, but he’s not fit.
“We had Xavi injured before and we coped. It’s part of football. Arsenal, too, have injuries. Cesc [Fàbregas] is a very, very good player. But, without him, they still beat FC Porto 5-0.”