Wenger refuses to follow Inter lead

Arsenal boss says his side will stick to passing principles and not try to copy Inter's 2010 vintage against Barca.

    Wenger with Barca coach Pep Guardiola as Arsenal's comeback fell to pieces at the Nou Camp last year [GALLO/GETTY]

    Arsene Wenger says he will not try to stop Barcelona playing and will instead keep faith with his own team's passing abilities when Arsenal host the Spanish giants in the European Champions League last 16.

    Having tried to play Barca at their own game in last season's quarter-finals and come unstuck with a 6-3 aggregate defeat, Wenger says his team are now better equipped for Wednesday's first leg at The Emirates.

    The night's other match sees Roma host Shakhtar Donetsk with their chances of silverware dwindling, leaving an unlikely Champions League trophy win as possibly their only hope.

    Barcelona lost in last year's semi-final when Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan sat deep and let Barca play in front of them, snuffing out danger and counterpunching when the Catalans' guard was down.

    The tactic paid off as Inter triumphed 3-2 on aggregate having limited Pep Guardiola's side to a solitary late goal in a 1-0 win at the Nou Camp in the second leg.

    But with Arsenal's style a long way from Inter's pragmatic belligerence, Wenger said he would stick with the approach that has been his career trademark.

    'Quality football'

    "I think everybody expects an exciting game as it's two teams who play quality football," the Frenchman said on Tuesday.

    "To be faithful to our philosophy, make sure we dominate the game, that we pass the ball and have possession of the ball and if we are capable of doing that we have a very good chance."

    Last 16 fixtures

    Tuesday February 15

     AC Milan v Tottenham
     Valencia v Schalke

    Wednesday February 16

     Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk
     Arsenal v Barcelona

    Tuesday February 22

     Copenhagen v Chelsea
     Lyon v Real Madrid

    Wednesday February 23

     Marseille v Man Utd
     Inter Milan v Bayern

    Last season Barcelona led 2-0 at the Emirates and, though Arsenal fought back to draw 2-2 and then led the away leg 1-0, four goals by Lionel Messi sent the Spaniards through.

    Wenger, whose side also lost to Barcelona in the 2006 final, said the defeat would be a help rather than a hindrance.

    "Last year I said after the 4-1 that we lost to the better team," he said.

    "But we now have a good opportunity to show that we are not any more the team that played against them last year.

    "This team has attitude, this team has focus.

    "At the moment, Barcelona are the best team in the world – if we knock them out we have straightaway a good chance to win the competition."

    Midfielder Cesc Fabregas missed the second leg last season and Arsenal are a different proposition with him in the side.

    His former club's annual enquires about his availability and his reciprocal affection may have some Arsenal fans questioning his motivation but Wenger dismissed the notion out of hand.

    "He will approach it how he approaches every single game – with a huge desire to win," Wenger said.

    "Cesc Fabregas is an exceptional player but he is also a winner and he wants to win every single game and when he doesn't he's hugely frustrated."

    The Spaniard's combinations with Samir Nasri have played a big part in Arsenal's success this year although the 14-goal Frenchman will probably start on the bench after a quick recovery from a hamstring strain suffered on January 30.

    Roma under pressure

    Last season's Italian league and cup runners-up Roma host Shakhtar at the Stadio Olimpico in a match that has taken on extra significance for the Italians.

    Claudio Ranieri's team have taken just one point out of the last nine in Serie A, losing to two of their would be title rivals: Inter Milan and Napoli.

    Those defeats left them 13 points adrift of leaders AC Milan, albeit with a game in hand, and all but mathematically out of the scudetto race.

    Ranieri admitted as much in his post match comments on Saturday following the home reverse to Napoli.

    "Fighting for the scudetto at this point to me seems a big ask," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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