Andrés Iniesta is looking forward to finally starting against "one of the best teams in the world" when FC Barcelona visit Arsenal FC for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie.
The classy midfielder was a frustrated onlooker for all but the final five minutes of last season's quarter-final triumph against the Gunners having injured his right thigh before the first instalment in London, which finished 2-2. Set to compete from the off on Wednesday against his international colleague Cesc Fàbregas, Iniesta spoke enthusiastically of what he hopes will be another enthralling set of encounters with the Premier League title challengers.
"I didn't play last year, I was injured, but they were excellent matches because there were a lot of goals," the 26-year-old said of the 6-3 aggregate victory. "There were good moments and times when they put us under pressure, particularly in the first leg. We are going to try and play well because Arsenal are one of the best teams in the world. If we want to win we need to play excellently and let's hope that's the case."
Interestingly, for a team that had won their previous 16 Liga matches before Saturday's 1-1 draw with Real Sporting de Gijón, Iniesta mentioned on more than one occasion Barcelona's need to eradicate their "mistakes" if they are to qualify for the last eight. "The main objective in every match is to try to keep the ball and to create dangerous attacks," explained the Spain playmaker, whose extra-time winner in the 2010 FIFA World Cup final was set up by Fàbregas.
"That's our intention but we're playing one of the best teams in the world. They like to pass a lot and are very dangerous. We need to be cagey and defend well when they have the ball. We must cut out our mistakes and be focused all the time."
Iniesta was speaking in the city where he scored the late goal in the 2009 semi-final second leg which secured Barcelona a place in the Rome showpiece at the expense of Chelsea FC. Though such a moment will always stay with him, Iniesta was quick to focus on the task in hand when quizzed on that 90th-minute strike at Stamford Bridge.
"I have good memories of when we played Chelsea and that goal is one I will always relish," he said. "That's in the past now, though, and we have an important match tomorrow. That was Chelsea and tomorrow is another match. "
Like 12 months ago, Iniesta expects the tie to still be in the balance when the sides reconvene at the Camp Nou for the return. "This tie is going to be decided in the second match," he added, looking ahead to the 8 March encounter. "We are in the Champions League among the best teams in the world. Nobody is thinking we can win the tie tomorrow."
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