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Arsenal, Barca bosses relish matchup
The Guardian, December 17th, 2010 3:46PM



While expressing admiration for their opponents, Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger and Barca counterpart Pep Guardiola also said they will enjoy their meeting in the Champions' League round of 16. The teams, which met in last year's quarterfinals, were paired together in the draw Friday, and Wenger is confident Arsenal can reverse last year's setback. Barcelona won, 6-3, on aggregate by destroying the Gunners, 4-1, in the second leg at home. On the Arsenal Web site Wenger said: "Revenge is not on my mind. We want to qualify and we want to knock them out. So is it difficult? Yes. Is it possible? Yes.

"Barcelona are certainly the favorites [for the competition] and a famous team but, on their side, they did not want us either because they know they will get a game. I think we are better than last year and we have a good opportunity to show that."

Guardiola believes Arsenal has improved with the emergence of Samir Nasri and the summer purchase of striker Marouane Chamakh. "They have been playing good soccer for years now," he said. "I think they will be stronger than they were last season with Nasri now fully established in the team, plus the signing of Chamakh. Also there's a difference this time: Cesc will be on the field."

Of the many intriguing subplots for this showdown there is the matter of Arsenal's Spanish midfielder and Barca youth academy product, Cesc Fabregas. An injury in the first leg of last year's quarterfinals -- a 2-2 draw -- forced him to miss the second leg.

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