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Gallas issues Arsenal warning

Published: Wednesday 24 March 2004, 8.09CET
Chelsea FC defender William Gallas believes that his side can end a 16-game winless streak against Arsenal FC. features

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Published: Wednesday 24 March 2004, 8.09CET

Gallas issues Arsenal warning

Chelsea FC defender William Gallas believes that his side can end a 16-game winless streak against Arsenal FC.

By Trevor Haylett in London

There are not too many people predicting that Chelsea FC will beat Arsenal FC in the all-English UEFA Champions League quarter-final which begins tonight at Stamford Bridge.

Irresistible form
Chelsea admit that the odds are loaded in favour of Arsène Wenger's men. Not only are the north London side carrying all before them in the Premiership with a nine-point lead over Chelsea and an unbeaten sequence of 29 games since the start of the season, but they are also unbeaten in 16 successive meetings with their west London rivals, stretching back to January 1999.

'We are angry'
However, as defender William Gallas speaks to it becomes clear that there is a quiet confidence in the Chelsea camp. "Maybe this game will be different, maybe Arsenal will be afraid of us this time," the French international said. "Afraid because they know how we determined we are having lost to them three times this season. We are angry and more determined this time because of those earlier defeats."

Defensive excellence
Chelsea's optimism is partly founded on their defensive record which shows they have not conceded a goal in their last five Champions League games. Asked to explain this defensive prowess Gallas gives a modest response, explaining that the entire team should take credit. "It is down to the whole team," he said, "it is not just the defence. The forwards also play their part when we have not got the ball."

'Strange things'
However he finds it hard to explain why their defensive record n the Premiership is nowhere near as parsimonious. "It's one of those strange things," he admitted. "We train exactly the same, we prepare the same way."

'Already a good season'
There is currently intense speculation concerning the future of manager Claudio Ranieri, but Gallas takes offence at any suggestion that Chelsea need to win a trophy for this season to be considered a success. "It is already a good season," he said. "We are in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, we are second in the Premiership. It is a very good season."

Fellow Frenchmen
Naturally, though, he and his team-mates want to go further in Europe which would mean inflicting disappointment on his fellow countrymen at Highbury, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira.

Drifting out wide
Henry in particular is a close friend and Gallas, who has been filling in at right-back for the injured Glen Johnson in recent games, expects to be seeing a lot of his international colleague tonight as the Arsenal man loves to drift out wide to the left flank where he can wreak so much damage. Pressed to name the one quality that separates Henry from the rest, Gallas responded: "Cleverness. Thierry is a very clever player, that is more of a problem for defenders than his pace."

'We are very determined'
"But we are very close to Arsenal, there is not much between the teams at all," he continued. "Three times we have played them this season and each time we have been on the same level as them - yet each time they won but we don't know why that is. This time I think it will change in our favour. We are very determined to come through and carry on into the next round."

Last updated: 24/03/04 23.10CET

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