Wenger undaunted by Barca threat

30 March 2010 09:03
Arsene Wenger insists his Arsenal team will not be intimidated by Barcelona in Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final first-leg tie at the Emirates.The Spanish giants won the competition last year and are firm favourites to overcome the Londoners, but Wenger said: "We must be brave and go for it. [LNB]"What you want from your team is not to worry too much about the strengths of Barcelona and focus on our strengths. [LNB]"I do not deny their quality, but we are an exceptional team as well." [LNB]Barcelona boast a dazzling array of talent in their ranks, led by Argentine playmaker Lionel Messi and including the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and former Gunner Thierry Henry. [LNB]Defender Thomas Vermaelen believes Arsenal can cope, though, saying: "We are not focused on individuals, because we have to play our own game and play as a team. [LNB]"Messi is a very good player, one of the best players in the world. However, there will be no time to be intimidated. You do not have to be nervous or look at individual players. You have to be focused on your own performance and the team's performance. [LNB]"If you want to win the Champions League, you have to beat the best teams." [LNB]Josep Guardiola's Barcelona side completed the domestic league and cup double alongside their Champions League triumph last year and are again in contention in La Liga this season, though they are currently second in the table behind Real Madrid on goal difference.[LNB] Can Arsenal overcome Barcelona? But Wenger said: "I do not deny their quality. [However] the form of the day, the desire, the belief, how much we play for each other will make the difference. [LNB]"They are an individual and collective threat, but so are we. [LNB]"If we produce the best performance, then we can beat any side in the world." [LNB]The Gunners may, however, have to do so without captain and influential midfielder Cesc Fabregas, with Wenger insisting he will not gamble on the fitness of the Spaniard, who suffered bruising to his leg and knee in the weekend draw with Birmingham. [LNB]"We will give ourselves 24 hours more and we will assess the situation, but if the match were today, Cesc would not be able to play," Wenger said on Tuesday. [LNB]"If he is at full capacity on Wednesday, we will play him. [LNB]Henry can expect a warm reception back at the Emirates Stadium"The medical staff tell me there is still a chance he will be available, but that will be decided in the warm-up on the night. That tells you how late we will leave it. [LNB]"I would say it is 60% against, 40% for him playing. [LNB]"We have a squad of 19 players so I have considered the possibility of leaving him out completely. We will give him 24 hours more, but I don't know if he will be available. [LNB]"If he is not capable to play I would not even put him on the [substitutes'] bench." [LNB]Henry, meanwhile, can expect a warm reception on his return to the Emirates, says Wenger. [LNB]The French forward, a self-confessed Arsenal fan, is idolised by Gunners fans after he enjoyed huge success in his eight years with the club, and he remains their greatest goalscorer. [LNB]But Wenger dismissed suggestions of split loyalty for the club or player, saying: "We are happy to see him back and he will get the warm reception he deserves. [LNB]"However, when the game starts it will be a quarter-final of the Champions League where we will of course give everything to beat him." [LNB]Meanwhile, Henry's fellow striker Ibrahimovic - who is an admirer of Arsenal and their style of play - said Wenger's team need to win silverware before they can be compared to Barcelona.[LNB]Ibrahimovic has a poor record against English teams in EuropeThe Swede said the Gunners "have a lot of good young players and play good football" and predicted the quarter-final would produce some magic moments. [LNB]"When I saw the draw, I said immediately the whole world will see two fantastic matches. These two teams are the ones we like to watch," said Ibrahimovic, who has scored 18 goals for Barcelona this season. [LNB]"But at the same time it is more important to win titles. If you don't, people say these teams don't win by playing that way and maybe they should change their style." [LNB]The Swede, who joined the Spanish team from Inter Milan in July 2009, admitted he does not have a great record against English clubs in the Champions League in terms of displays. [LNB]He was in the Inter teams knocked out of the competition by Manchester United in 2009 and Liverpool the previous year. [LNB]"I think I haven't performed my best in games against English teams," said the 28-year-old. [LNB]"But the last time was with Inter against Manchester United and it is harder playing for Italian teams against English teams because Italian teams are more concerned with not conceding."

Source: BBC_Sport