Whether or not Arsenal FC succeed where they failed last season and end FC Barcelona's UEFA Champions League ambitions, Johan Djourou is simply glad to be back on the biggest club stage of all after overcoming a serious knee injury.
Alongside Laurent Koscielny, the centre-back has become a fixture in the heart of Arsenal's defence since the turn of the year in the absence of Sébastien Squillaci and, before him, Thomas Vermaelen. He has started 11 of the Gunners' last 12 matches in all competitions, a turn of events which must have seemed unlikely when he spent almost the whole of last term sidelined with a knee problem sustained towards the end of 2008/09.
Reflecting on his situation now that he is fully fit, the Swiss international − who missed the 6-3 aggregate defeat by Barcelona in the quarter-finals last term − said: "Things have gone well for me. I was injured, so I needed a bit of time to come back but I've worked hard and had the confidence of the manager. It was about working hard and showing what I can do and I'm happy today that I'm in the team.
"It was a good point to prove, to show that my knee is fine and the injury is in the past now. I'm looking to the future because it was a difficult time for me. Now I'm enjoying myself, so I just want to keep it that way."
Whether he and his team-mates continue to enjoy themselves in Europe's premier club competition might depend on their ability to shackle Lionel Messi, a scorer of 43 goals in 39 games for Barcelona and Argentina this campaign.
"We know Barcelona are a great team, and we all know about Lionel Messi, but don't think it's only about him because he gets great service from players like Xavi [Hernández] and [Andrés] Iniesta," stressed the 24-year-old. "From the start we have to be focused and as a group of 11 players we need to get behind the ball and defend all together."
Djourou will start alongside Koscielny and in front of a rookie goalkeeper making his debut in UEFA club competition, Wojciech Szczęsny. Together, the trio have helped Arsenal to seven wins in an eight-match unbeaten run which has confirmed the club's status as Manchester United FC's closest title challengers, and secured a place in the English League Cup final.
"It's great, we're not conceding many goals," said Djourou of playing with Koscielny, 16 months his senior. "We have a good understanding but I've played with Thomas Vermaelen and Sébastien Squillaci, so we have good defenders at the club. We are happy because we are getting good results and we just want to keep that going."
Djourou, meanwhile, has no qualms about Szczęsny's ability to handle himself against one of the most feted attacking lineups in world football. "He's a great guy and a great goalkeeper because he has a lot of confidence," he added. "For a guy of his age that confidence is impressive. He's very young and looks like he's been in the game for ages so it's just great to have him behind you."
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