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Monday 18 December 2017

We must be brave to beat Barca -- Wenger

Arsenal boss still sweating on fitness of skipper Cesc but expects clash with champions to live up to the hype for 'people who love football'

Arsene Wenger has warned Barcelona his young Arsenal side can cause their star-studded team plenty of trouble as the Gunners look to knock the Champions League holders and competition favourites out of Europe.

Arsenal will give captain Cesc Fabregas every chance to recover from a heavy bruising to his leg and knee as the influential Spain midfielder aims to face his boyhood club in the first leg at Emirates Stadium tonight.

Barcelona, though, are nevertheless expected to progress into the semi-finals at the expense of the English outfit, as Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a certain former Arsenal skipper, Thierry Henry, look to take a lead back to the Nou Camp for the second leg.

Wenger, however, is confident his youngsters can rise to the challenge and give Barcelona a run for their money.

"If we produce the best performance, then we can beat any side in the world," the Arsenal manager declared.

"What you want from your team is not to worry too much about the strengths of Barcelona, but more focus on our strengths and our qualities.

"We must be brave, go for it and then we have every chance. I do not deny their quality, because Barcelona have an exceptional team -- but we are an exceptional team as well.

The Gunners boss continued: "The form of the day, the desire, the belief, how much we play for each other will make the difference.

"We have, of course, to cancel their strengths, but Barcelona will have the same problem. They are an individual and collective threat, but so are we.



Respond

"I am confident we can respond to the expectation of all people who love football, but also our fans because they want us to do something special and we want to deliver that."

Wenger will wait as long as possible before deciding whether Fabregas, who picked up his injury during the 1-1 draw at Birmingham on Saturday, should feature.

"The medical staff tell me there is still a chance he will be available, but that will be decided in the warm up, which tells you how late we will leave it," said Wenger.

"However, if he is not capable to play, I would not even put him on the bench. We have 19 players in the squad, that means I have considered the possibility of ruling him out completely. Cesc is desperate to play in every single game," said the Arsenal boss, "and who wouldn't want to play in a game like this?

"He always wants to play every day and I believe it is the mark of a great player that they want to do that and are happy when they do."

Henry, now 32, joined Barcelona in the summer of 2007 after a superb Arsenal career which saw him lead the side against the Spaniards in the previous season's Champions League final.

Despite now being utilised more often from the bench by Pep Guardiola, Wenger maintains: "Thierry is still a threat because he is an exceptional talent.

"We are happy to see him back at the Emirates and he will get the warm welcome he deserves.

"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."

Defender William Gallas, meanwhile, is in line for a first appearance since the start of February after recovering from a calf problem.

ARSENAL v BARCELONA

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