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Wenger given his chance to settle a score as Arsenal face Barcelona

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20 Mar 2010 01:01:35

Wenger given his chance to settle a score as Arsenal face Barcelona

As events at Cheltenham demonstrated yesterday, making predictions can be a dangerous business. But the form guide of European football certainly points to a repeat oflast season's Champions League final and an opportunity to see the twofinest players in the world on the same pitch. Manchester United versusBarcelona; Wayne Rooney versus Lionel Messi; a mouthwatering prospect in Madrid. Night to remember: United beat Bayern 2-1 in the 1999 Champions League final Before then, however, come some intriguing battles, yesterday's draw at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon having produced four quarter-final encounters that might well have been on Michel Platini's wish list. While guaranteeing that one side from Platini's native France will progress to the last four, it also kept the major players apart. United must first overcome Bayern Munich before meeting either Lyon or Bordeaux in the semis. Barcelona do, of course, have to meet Arsenal before a probable meeting with Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan, who first have to focus on the challenge posed by CSKA Moscow. Previous finals will be revisited. United and Bayern in Barcelona in1999; Arsenal and Barcelona in Paris seven years later. The chance, inthe opinion of Arsene Wenger, to have a proper crack at the classyCatalans after losing Jens Lehmann to a red card so early in the Stadede France. QUARTER FINAL DRAW First Legs to be played 30-31 March: LYON  v  BORDEAUX BAYERN MUNICH v  MANCHESTER UTD ARSENAL v BARCELONA INTER MILAN v CSKA MOSCOW Second Legs to be played 6-7 April United have a slight advantage over Louis van Gaal's German league leaders - a side that combines defensive strength with the attacking flair of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben - in that the second leg will be at Old Trafford. For Arsenal, however, yesterday was not quite so kind. Their quarter-final will be settled at the Nou Camp. Old friends will be reunited in that tie: Cesc Fabregas with the club who had him as a youngster and now want him back, Thierry Henry with Wenger and his former colleagues. If Bordeaux and United progress from the last eight, Sir Alex Ferguson will discover how much Laurent Blanc learnt from the master when he was at Old Trafford. If Inter and Arsenal progress, expect more fireworks between Wenger and Mourinho. Cesc appeal: Arsenal were beaten by Barcelona in Paris back in 2006 Arsenal will have their concerns, even if Wenger appears keen to pit his footballing artists against the reigning European champions. Sol Campbell scored against Barcelona in the final but, four years on, Wenger would probably want to see William Gallas standing alongside Thomas Vermaelen. Neither Arsenal nor Barcelona will relish the prospect of a semi-final against Inter Milan. Not after the way they dominated Chelsea in the last 16. It would be a clash of cultures whichever team triumphs at the Nou Camp and one that will be hard to call even if the bookies will backPep Guardiola's largely homegrown team (seven members of their starting line-up against Stuttgart this week came through the club's academy). SEMI FINAL DRAW First Legs to be played 20-21 April Bayern Munich/Man Utd v Lyon/BordeauxInter Milan/CSKA Moscow v Arsenal/Barcelona Second Legs to be played 27-28 April On Tuesday night at Stamford Bridge there was a sense that this could yet be another memorable year for Mourinho. The Italian champions were impressive over both legs of that tie and certainly amount to a difficult hurdle for any side in Europe to overcome. Judging by his prickly response to some questions yesterday, Wenger appears already to have grown weary of the focus on Fabregas and Henry. 'Why does it matter?' he said when the subject of Henry's return to the Emirates was raised. For Wenger it is the chance to play Barcelona with 11 men that excites and inspires him. He has the chance to bury the memories that still anger him and in particular the decision by Terje Hauge, the Norwegian referee, to dismiss Lehmann, his German goalkeeper, in 2006. 'The last game was a no game because we went down to 10 men in a final that promised so much,' he said. 'When a referee makes a decision like that he has to be absolutely sure. You do not kill a final that a billion people watch if it's not really clear. French connection: Henry celebrates winning the 2004 Premier League title at White Hart Lane with Vieira 'But they always get referees from the north who referee in minorleagues. They are not used to the tricks and the pace of the countrieslike England and Spain. 'Eleven against eleven, it would have been a fantastic game. Because wehad to take off Robert Pires, he still hates me today. We take a greatplayer out who could have contributed to the quality of the game.' Wenger nevertheless recognises what a wonderful quarter-final thiscould be. Not least because, in his opinion, these are the two teams who have perfected the art of playing a 4-3-3 formation. 'I played 4-3-3 before Barcelona,' he said. 'I played 4-3-3 at Monaco and I think Barcelona have not created that system. That system is a Dutch system. 'Johan Cruyff exported it and played in that system. The Dutch used it in 1974 in the World Cup in Germany. I thought it was more suited to the quality of our players. 'It suits Fabregas, it allows Robin van Persie to play in a free role up front and because we have so many versatile players we are not made for a strict 4-4-2. It gives us more freedom to be creative. 'It is the top technical level. You will see some good players on the pitch on the day. That will make it very interesting.' Ferguson seemed more relaxed. 'The history of playing Bayern in European ties tells you it's going to be very difficult for us,' he said.  Deja vu for Arsenal and United as they land familiar foes in Champions LeagueEasy Champions League draw for Manchester United? Only Barca are better than Bayern Munich, warns Darren FletcherARSENAL v West Ham: Cesc Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky return for Arsene Wenger


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