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Vieira makes Arsenal return

Published: Friday 10 March 2006, 18.52CET
Arsenal FC's progress in the UEFA Champions League is threatened by former captain Patrick Vieira who returns to Highbury with Juventus in the quarter-finals.

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Published: Friday 10 March 2006, 18.52CET

Vieira makes Arsenal return

Arsenal FC's progress in the UEFA Champions League is threatened by former captain Patrick Vieira who returns to Highbury with Juventus in the quarter-finals.

If Arsenal FC are to progress to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the first time, they must do it at the expense of former captain Patrick Vieira after the English club were paired with Juventus in the quarter-final draw.

Irreplaceable component
The decision to sell their French talisman to the Italian champions last summer mystified many Arsenal supporters, and their team's struggles in domestic football in the first six months of the season appeared to bear out the fact that Vieira was an irreplaceable component of the side - both on the pitch and in the dressing-room.

Perfect stage
Now he has the perfect stage to show just what Arsenal are missing when the clubs meet at Highbury on 28 March with the return in Turin on 5 April. It is the first time Arsenal have faced Serie A opposition in the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League while Juventus will be looking to avoid a similar outcome to last term when they went out to another Premiership team, Liverpool FC, at this stage.

Vieira reaction
Vieira said: "At times destiny serves up some surprises. Obviously, for me, it will be a special match, seeing that I'll be returning to Highbury as part of the opposing team. But beyond that I'll be thinking only of winning."

'Enthralling match'
Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein greeted the draw by saying: "They don't come more glamorous than that, do they? We thought Real Madrid [CF] was something special and this looks to be a very enthralling match. It will be nice to see Patrick back at Highbury. We will be up for it and I think he will get a very warm reception. He had nine great years with us."

'Extremely tough'
Antonio Giraudo, Juventus chief executive officer, said: "At this stage of the competition all the matches are extremely tough. We are really happy to have reached the quarter-finals and we hope to get through."

'Fascinating match'
The club's commercial director, Romy Gay, added: "We know how strong Arsenal are. They performed very well against Real Madrid in both legs and this will be a fascinating match. We didn't want to play Italian sides and we are satisfied to have avoided that."

Henry's former foes
The tie will also bring back memories for Arsenal striker Thierry Henry, who before arriving in north London in the summer of 1999, spent an unhappy seven months with Juve following his switch from AS Monaco FC.

Good record
For Arsène Wenger's young side, it is another clash with former UEFA Champions League winners after they dismissed Madrid in the first knockout round. But they will be boosted by their record on the previous four occasions they have tackled Italian teams in the competition: paired in the same group as Italian opposition, Arsenal's aggregate scores in the four meetings proved superior every time.

Upper hand
The clubs last faced off in the 2001/02 second group stage when Arsenal recorded a 3-1 home victory with Juventus winning 1-0 in the Stadio Delle Alpi. Their only other encounter in UEFA competition came in the 1979/80 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup when Arsenal progressed thanks to a 1-0 away success after a 1-1 draw at Highbury.

Improvement needed
Juventus, last-16 conquerors of Werder Bremen, will be seeking to improve on their last two appearances against English sides. Before last season's defeat by Liverpool – a 2-1 reverse at Anfield followed by a 0-0 home draw - they had taken on Manchester United FC in the 2002/03 second group stage and lost home and away.

Last updated: 11/03/06 18.34CET

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