Champions League quarter-final: first leg
The return to Highbury of Patrick Vieira has inevitably been the main making talking point in the build up to Juventus’ Champions League quarter-final tie with Arsenal.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hopes Vieira will be afforded a warm welcome on his return to London, in recognition of the nine years service he gave to the club before last summer’s move to Turin.
“I hope he gets a great reception because he gave nine years to this club – nine fantastic years,” Wenger said.
“It will be a pleasure to see Patrick again, but he is still a major force and we must work hard to restrict his influence.”
Arsenal are without Sol Campbell, whose comeback was derailed by a bruised a toe in training, and Fredrik Ljungberg, who has failed to recover from a calf problem.
Juventus are also missing two influential figures in Alessandro Del Piero, who is injured, and Pavel Nedved who is suspended for the first leg.
“When players are missing, other players with different qualities come in,” said Wenger. “Juventus have a big squad, and sometimes when fringe players get a chance they are hungrier to succeed.”
Wenger’s side have never progressed beyond the quarter-finals of the Champion League, but after knocking out Real Madrid in the previous round, Wenger is optimistic about his side’s chances.
“Of course the pressure increases with each passing round, but I enjoy that and I think the players enjoy it too,” he said.
“We knocked out Real Madrid in the last round, who are one of the best teams in the world, and we played two top-quality games then. This is a similar situation as we are not favourites again, although Juve play a completely different game to Madrid.”
Arsenal find themselves in the unaccustomed position of struggling to qualify for next season’s Champions League following a poor run of form at the turn of the year. However, Wenger believes his team have turned the corner, in part due to their splendid form in Europe.
“This competition has been a key part in our improvement,” said Wenger, whose side have conceded only two goals, the lowest of the eight quarter-finalists.
“Our form in the Champions League has allowed this young team to believe again, and we have transferred that to the Premiership. We believe we are strong again.”
Juventus coach, Fabio Capello, who bring a huigely experienced Juve team to London, is aware of Arsenal’s attacking potential.
“Arsenal have very good players and they always try to attack, especially at home. They are always dangerous, especially on the counterattack, as they have great pace, particularly in Henry.”
Juve have lost on their last four trips to England, including a 2-1 defeat at Liverpool FC at the same stage a year ago. Capello acknowledges that his side cannot afford any sort of complacency to creep into their play.
“In European games every team tries to make the most of home advantage, so we will have to be very careful and try to hit back whenever we can,” said Capello.
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