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Luis Enrique anticipating Emirates thriller against Arsenal

Luis Enrique is predicting a match for the football purists when his all-conquering Barcelona side take on Arsenal in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Tuesday.

Holders Barcelona begin the knockout stages at Emirates Stadium aiming to become the first team in the Champions League era to retain their crown, with AC Milan the last side to be European champions in consecutive season back in 1988-89 and 1989-90.

The Catalan giants got the better of Arsenal in two-legged ties in 2010 and 2011, while Arsene Wenger’s side have departed in the round of 16 in each of the previous five seasons.

Neverthess, Barca coach Luis Enrique expects an “attractive” match where both sides will look to dictate terms.

“I have seen Arsenal before this season and they are going to press high at some moments of the game, according to the profile of the players they have got,” he said.

“But I hope we can keep possession of the ball in their half of the pitch and put our football into practice.

“Arsenal are a good team, strong in transitions, with good players up front and strong collectively. We have to play well with the ball and without the ball to beat a team like Arsenal.”

“I think Barcelona always has the possession of the ball and controls the game. On paper this is one of the most attractive games you can find if you like this type of football

“Some people prefer a more direct football- there are plenty of styles

“Football can always be a surprise but I think we are going to see a really good game because we both like to dominate.”

Barca’s win at Las Palmas on Saturday and dropped points for each of the Madrid clubs opened up an eight-point gap at the top of the table with 13 games remaining in La Liga this season.

Having reached the final of the Copa del Rey, where they will take on Sevilla, a repeat of last term’s phenomenal treble is being widely tipped.

And Luis Enrique has no concerns over his players wearing the favourites’ tag at home and abroad.

“We are the current champions and I think that it is logical that we are favourites. But being favourites means nothing. We have to prove our quality game after game,” he said.

“We are not going to change anything that we have been doing this year. Playing away from your own stadium is very difficult.

“I have got really good players – they are the chosen ones because they are fantastic.

“They are always eager to win. Every two or three days they have a new motivation and I am absolutely delighted to be their coach.”

Mon 22 Feb, 2016
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