The UEFA Champions League quarter-final between FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC not only rematches the participants in the memorable 2006 decider in Paris, it also brings together two teams who produced stunning displays in the first knockout round.
Holders Barcelona underlined their intent to become the first team to win the UEFA Champions League two years running with their 4-0 defeat of VfB Stuttgart two days ago; Arsenal went one better the previous week, beating FC Porto 5-0 to overturn a first-leg deficit.
In the final four years ago, Barcelona recovered from conceding a Sol Campbell goal to win 2-1. In their previous meeting in the 1999/2000 first group stage, Barça were held 1-1 at Camp Nou but triumphed 4-2 at the Gunners' temporary European home of Wembley, Josep Guardiola captaining the eventual semi-finalists in both games. Thierry Henry was on the Arsenal side in those three encounters but is now with Barcelona, who once had Cesc Fàbregas on their books.
Arsène Wenger, who has tasted victory in two of his five UEFA Champions League quarter-finals as Arsenal manager, said: "
We respect what Barcelona have done but this competition is about what you do tomorrow. I believe what is important is that on the day everyone sees a good game and we win it. We are focused on us, not our opponents. In the quarter-finals you are bound to meet a good team and Barça are a good team."
Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué has met Arsenal once before at the top level, helping Manchester United FC win a league encounter 2-1 at Old Trafford on 13 April 2008, his last appearance for the club before rejoining Guardiola's squad the following month. "
I really like the way Arsenal play," said the Spain defender.
"They got to the semi-finals of the Champions League last season before falling to Manchester United. In the Premier League this season they have a chance of winning the title so you can tell from those factors that Arsenal are a really good side and they'll demand that we be at our very best when we meet them. Cesc Fàbregas is the main man in their team. It's true that Arsenal have some good players in their side but he's probably their most important one."
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