Henry preparing for return 'home'

28 March 2010 02:55
Barca travel to Emirates Stadium for the first leg of their quarter-final tie on Wednesday, and for Henry it will be the chance to play against the club where he spent eight hugely successful seasons.

Having joined Arsenal from Juventus in 1999, the France international would go on to score a club-record 226 goals in 369 games for the Gunners, finishing as the top scorer in the Premier League on four occasions and as the European Golden Boot winner twice.

He also helped Arsenal become league champions twice and FA Cup winners on three occasions before moving to Barcelona in the summer of 2007, a year after suffering defeat at the hands of the Catalan giants in the 2006 Champions League final.

Now Henry is heading back to the club where he earned legendary status, and although it was the draw he had hoped to avoid, he admits it will be a special occasion for him.

"I'm very emotional, but also staying calm. It will be a strange game for me. Before the draw I said that I did not want to face Arsenal. That was my wish. But now that's the game we've got and we'll have to give everything," said Henry.

"It's very special. To return home is strange and even more so in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

"It will be different because I spent seven years at Highbury and only one at the Emirates, but to see the people, the fans and the other employees at the club again will be very strange.

"I played eight years at Arsenal. It's like if Xavi left Barca and then returned one day.

"Since I joined Barcelona I've only been to see Arsenal on one occasion, against Blackburn three or four months ago. It will be only the second time. I do not know how the fans will react," the 32-year-old told Barca TV.

If Barca manage to safely negotiate their quarter-final tie against Arsene Wenger's men, then they will be just two games away from a possible Champions League final at the Bernabeu - the home ground of their arch-rivals Real Madrid, whose participation in the competition is already over.

Having won all six trophies available to them in 2009, Barca are highly fancied to retain their European title in the Spanish capital in May, but Henry insists it will be far from easy.

"Whenever the reigning champions are playing in the competition, people say they are the favourites. But the Champions League is different. Look at Lyon with Madrid or CSKA with Sevilla. I wouldn't say there is a favourite. It will be very difficult," added Henry, whose side will meet either Inter Milan or CSKA Moscow in the last four if they get past Arsenal.

"I know that for the Barca fans it's really important that we reach the final this year and, if we can, to win it. For Barca's supporters it is a dream to go to Madrid and for me it's strange to be facing Arsenal en route to that. But football is like that."

Whilst Henry will be keen to make a big impression on his return to London, he may have to cede the limelight to team-mate Lionel Messi if the Argentinian superstar continues the form he has been showing recently.

Although he has failed to score in his past two games, Messi still boasts a tally of 11 goals in his past seven appearances, and 34 for the season in all competitions.

When asked about the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, Henry said: "I've played alongside some great players, but Leo is very special.

"What Leo can do is difficult to find in any other player. The other day I had my head in my hands because I did not know how he does such things. I've received a load of messages all asking me if Leo is human. At times I ask myself that. What he does is not normal. We just have to enjoy it all."

Barca will have to do without Iniesta for the trip to England after he suffered a hamstring during Saturday night's win over Real Mallorca.

The Spain international is set to be sidelined for around 10 days, which would also rule him out of next weekend's game against Athletic Bilbao and leaves him facing a race to be fit for the return leg with the Gunners.

Arsenal v Barcelona To Qualify: Arsenal 7/4  

Source: Team_Talk