As a neutral, I don’t think football could get much better that this game has the potential to be. Arsenal play pass and move football that is wonderful to watch. They are not perfect and they are probably not the best team in England, but, much as it pains me to say it, they are probably the best team for a neutral to watch. Barcelona are simply the best team in world football at the moment and play pass and move football that is even better than Arsenal’s.
I really hope the game lives up to the potential it undoubtedly has. If both teams play well it will be a feast of football played in exactly the way it should be. Of course, that won’t matter to the fans of either side unless they actually win the tie. Barcelona will be red hot favourites and last season they brushed Arsenal aside at the quarter-final stage but Arsene Wenger feels his Arsenal team are better prepared for the challenge now.
“We are highly motivated to show we are a different team today. Barcelona are the best team in the world. If you knock them out you have a good chance to win the competition.
“Last year they were the better team but I believe in my players, they have the quality 100% to do it. In the first half of the home game we were spectators and a little bit inhibited. Now I believe we are a completely different team. Losing to Barcelona made us better because we came out of the second game with a lot of frustrations after missing the turning point when we were 1-0 up.
“But more than looking at the past we want to show how good we are. We want to win this competition, we know we face the super-favourites but the only way to do it is to knock them out. The players don’t deny the quality of Barcelona. What is important is to say ‘look who we are now, we are capable of knocking you out now’. That is our target.”
Barcelona look like winning La Liga again as they have opened up a big lead on Real Madrid. They were on a sixteen match winning run in the Spanish league before being held to a draw by Sporting Gijon at the weekend. That may have been a disappointing blip for them but they absolutely pummelled the Sporting goal looking for the winner and it was just one of those days. They remain a sublime team in sublime form.
Arsenal are also in decent form. They are still in the FA Cup and they have already booked a place in the Carling Cup final. They are second in the Premier League and seem to be Manchester United’s only serious challengers for the title and have gone nine games unbeaten in the league.
One other thing in Arsenal’s favour is that they have all their big guns fit and ready to play. Last season they were missing some important players including Fabregas and Van Persie.
It is clear that Wenger believes his team can beat the favourites.
“We are now a stronger team because we have attitude and I have not seen many teams with such consistent focus every day. We have made our own way by challenging for the title when nobody predicted we would. I believe we are a stronger team because we have attitude and focus. We are in ideal condition to face Barcelona.
“We have the belief and confidence and the players available are close to 100%. That was not the case last year. We want to show how good we are. We want to show the belief we have in our game and in our quality. Everyone expects an exciting game because it is two teams that play quality football. We want to be faithful to our philosophy and pass the ball well so we can dominate the game.”
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