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CL: Barca, Arsenal revive entertaining European rivalry

Last updated on: February 16, 2011 13:23 IST

'It's going to be a tough tie'

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Barcelona revive their entertaining rivalry with Arsenal on Wednesday in the first leg their Champions League last 16 tie that will showcase two of the most technically gifted and attractive sides in world soccer.

Barca, the 2009 winners, thumped Arsenal 6-3 in last year's quarter-finals, drawing 2-2 in London before Lionel Messi scored all four goals in a 4-1 comeback win at the Nou Camp.

The teams also met in the 2006 final, when 10-man Arsenal took a first-half lead at the Stade de France in Paris before Barca fought back to win 2-1.

The Catalan club's vice president Javier Faus said the presence of seven Spanish World Cup winners and World Player of the Year Messi in the Barca squad was grounds for optimism.

"Having said that, Arsenal are an extremely strong team and in my opinion the one that plays the best football in the English league," Faus said in an interview.

"They are well placed in the Premier League and it's going to be a very tough tie."


Image: Barcelona's Lionel Messi (centre) jokes with teammates Diego Milito (right) and Dani Alves during a training session at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper near Barcelona on Tuesday
Photographs: Reuters
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'Walcott was one of the most dangerous players I've ever played'

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Meanwhile, Barcelona star Lionel Messi has said that the Arsenal striker is the most dangerous player to play against.

Barcelona is determined to come away from Arsenal with a victory on Wednesday to underline their claims to the Champions League title this season.

In the first leg at the Emirates last season, Arsenal had been overrun and were trailing 2-0 until the introduction of Walcott, whose goal and performance rescued a 2-2 draw.

Walcott was similarly influential at the beginning of the second leg, providing the assist for Nicklas Bendtner's goal at the Nou Camp that briefly put Arsenal ahead before they succumbed to a display of individual genius from Lionel Messi, losing 4-1 and 6-3 on aggregate.

"I can only speak from experience but he was one of the most dangerous players I have ever played. Barcelona players are not scared easily but I can tell you that when we played Arsenal last season he truly worried us," The Telegraph quoted Messi, as saying.


Image: Arsenal's Theo Walcott (left) and Jack Wilshere attend a team training session in London Colney on Tuesday

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'Walcott changed the game for Arsenal last season'

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"When we were playing Arsenal at the Emirates we were so in control of the game at 2-0, with all respect Arsenal were not even in the game. Then Theo came on and changed the game. He pretty much single-handedly salvaged a draw that night," he said.

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola described Walcott as quicker than "our whole team put together," and observed once he had the ball you needed a pistol to stop him.

Walcott was very much a squad player last season, but the improvement in his delivery and finishing has elevated him to a regular place in Ars ne Wenger's starting team.


Image: Arsenal's Samir Nasri (centre), Cesc Fabregas (right) and Theo Walcott attend a team training session in London Colney on Tuesday

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'This match could be a good medicine for Roma'

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Wednesday's other last-16, first leg pits Serie A side AS Roma against Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk, who are appearing in the last 16 for the first time after failing in five previous qualifying attempts.

Roma have not won in three domestic league games and fans protested at training after Saturday's 2-0 home defeat by Napoli which left last season's runners-up in eighth.

There have also been off-field distractions.

An American consortium was given a 30-day exclusive negotiation period on Tuesday to discuss a purchase of the cash-strapped club and media reports have said coach Claudio Ranieri's job could be under threat.

"This match could be a good medicine for Roma and we will do our best," defender Philippe Mexes said.


Image: AS Roma's captain Francesco Totti

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