Barcelona are still favourites, says Wenger after thrilling win

Arsenal boss refuses to get carried away despite seeing his side come from behind to beat Barcelona

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta
arsene wenger

arsene wenger

UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE, 16 FEBRUARY 2011
Arsenal
2
Barcelona
1

Arsène Wenger refused to get carried away after seeing his side conquer Barcelona for the first time – and insisted the Catalan giants are still favourites to progress to the quarter-finals.

Wenger’s men fell behind to a typically clinical David Villa finish after 25 minutes before two late strikes gave the gunners a precious lead to take to Camp Nou in three weeks’ time.

Robin van Persie’s 78th-minute drive beat goalkeeper Víctor Valdés at his near post and moments later substitute Andrey Arshavin stroked home Samir Nasri’s pass to seal a famous victory for the north Londoners.

But despite hailing his side’s resilient performance in what proved to be an enthralling, fast-paced encounter in north London, Wenger believes his Premier League outfit are still the underdogs going into the return leg.

“I am highly delighted. It was a special football night,” said Wenger. “The game promised a lot and fulfilled that promise. It was two exceptional teams who tried always to be positive.

“We are not favourites now, but what is important is the belief that we have a chance. Barcelona are still favourites. We know now that we can beat them, though. We did not know that last year.

“Tonight gives us a chance to to go to Barcelona with belief. Every game is difficult but we will prepare well and be highly focused.”

The Spanish champions found their passing rhythm early on and denied Arsenal possession for long spells throughout the clash but the Frenchman was thrilled to see his side keep their composure without the ball.

“Against Barcelona you are exposed many times when they have possession but we kept resilient and strong,” Wenger continued.

“The problem with their possession is that if you are a fraction late you are in trouble. You have to be tight with the marking and if you don’t it is difficult.

He added: “We were prepared mentally to live with that. Usually we have the ball more than our opponents but we knew tonight that 60 per cent of the time we would have to be focused on them.”

Meanwhile, Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola was quick to praise Arsenal’s style of play but warned the north Londoners that his side will be fully focused on winning the return leg.

“I think we were okay. We have lost the first leg so we have to win the second leg,” he said. “We controlled the play for most of the match but we know they can play very well positionally.

“They are very good and very fast when they counter-attack. If we analyse this result it is not too bad.”

Guardiola added: “I think in general I am happy with the performance. But we need to score goals in the second leg. They will attack and we will attack too.”

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