Monday 21 January 2019

Wenger: This is our moment

Arsenal boss believes win over Barca can give squad belief to kick on for trophy

Arsene Wenger insists victory over Barcelona will present Arsenal with a magnificent chance of winning the Champions League.

The Gunners meet the competition's favourites tonight in the round of 16 first leg at Emirates Stadium and travel to the Nou Camp on March 8.

Wenger believes that should they progress into the quarter-finals, Arsenal will be in a strong position to seize the ultimate prize.

"We want to win this competition and we know the only way to do that is to beat the super-favourites," he said.

"Barcelona are certainly the best team in the world at the moment.

"If we knock Barcelona out, we straight away have a good chance to win the tournament."

Arsenal have failed to beat Barcelona in five previous attempts, but Wenger believes their time has come following a chastening experience in last season's quarter-finals.

The Gunners were humbled 6-3 on aggregate, losing 4-1 at the Nou Camp after Lionel Messi plundered four goals, and escaping with a 2-2 draw at home.


But Wenger insists much has changed in the last year.

"We don't deny the quality of Barcelona, but what is important for us is we have a good opportunity to show who we are now," he said.

"Not only that, we also want to show Barcelona we are capable of knocking them out.

"We have the belief and a strong togetherness to show we are a different team now.

"In the first half of the home game last year we were spectators a little bit and were a bit inhibited.


"I believe that confidence-wise and mentally we are a completely different team today."

In a huge boost to Arsenal, Samir Nasri is likely to start after the in-form France playmaker recovered from the hamstring injury sustained on January 30.

"I will take no medical risk. It's good to have him in the squad," said Wenger.

"He's recovered quicker than expected. I said it will be 21 days but it will be only 17 days.

"Everybody's absolutely adamant that he's completely medically available. It's down to me to make the decision."

Barcelona head coach Pep Guardiola, meanwhile, has promised to remain true to the club's principles in tonight's clash, with possession and attack the order of the day, though he admits Wenger's style of play could leave his side on the back foot if they are not on top form.

"With Arsenal if you are not well prepared you will be chasing shadows," said Guardiola.

"I like to watch Arsenal play football but I don't like to play against them. Of course I have worries about the game that Arsene Wenger plays. Theo Walcott has some good moments, Wenger is an incredible coach and Robin van Persie is a very mobile player who has a lot of influence.

"When you play Arsenal you know what is required of you. The players of Barcelona know what we have to do.

"We will try to play attractive football, we have for the last 20-25 years. We might lose, we might win but we will always play attractive football for our fans."

Guardiola, whose side drew against Sporting Gijon at the weekend, has pinpointed at least one away goal as the minimum requirement for the first leg and is sure there will be little to pick between the sides going into the return fixture.

"The main objective is to play well, to try and dominate all the play," he said.

"We will try and score a goal because scoring away from home is very important. "We want to bring at least a goal back to Barcelona.

"But I don't think it will be decided there. We will have to decide it in Barca in the second leg."

Guardiola is also hopeful Arsenal playmaker Nasri can be passed fit for the game.

Despite his threat, Guardiola admires the Frenchman and wants him play.

"If Nasri doesn't play they still have (Tomas) Rosicky or (Andrey) Arshavin but Nasri is an incredible player.

"I hope Nasri can play. I always prefer to play the teams who have the best players."

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