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Arsenal out to end Spanish jinx

Published: Tuesday 24 February 2004, 15.32CET
Arsenal FC remain unbeaten in the English Premiership but RC Celta de Vigo feel they can surprise the Londoners.

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Published: Tuesday 24 February 2004, 15.32CET

Arsenal out to end Spanish jinx

Arsenal FC remain unbeaten in the English Premiership but RC Celta de Vigo feel they can surprise the Londoners.

By Graham Hunter in Vigo

Arsenal FC may be unbeaten in the English Premiership this season, but RC Celta de Vigo feel that they can pick up a lead against their visitors on Tuesday in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League knockout tie. Celta striker Milosevic, familiar with Arsenal from his time with Aston Villa FC, has no doubts that victory can be achieved.

Milosevic belief
"I am so confident about these two games against Arsenal that I can say we are going to win," Milosevic said. "I have scored three goals in three games against Arsenal - they are certainly one of my favourite teams to play against. Personally I have nothing to prove against Arsenal simply because I once played in England. A match against an English club is like any other - my job is to score."

Mixed fortunes
Celta may have won at AC Milan to progress past the group stage on their debut in this tournament, but they are 16th in the Primera División and have won just two home league games this season. That form led to the sacking of coach Miguel Ángel Lotina and appointment of the experienced Radomir Antic, but the new man at the helm believes that Arsenal's past European form - they have never won in Spain - gives them hope.

Past record
Antic, who is without Juanfran and Jesuli but welcomes back Aleksandr Mostovoi and Edu - not to be confused with the Arsenal player of the same name - said: "Arsenal have only ever reached the Champions League quarter-final once." And that is possibly just as well for Celta, because Arsenal's Premiership form had been nothing less than brilliant, leading by seven points following their Saturday win against Chelsea FC.

Sylvinho plan
Left-back Sylvinho joined Celta from Arsenal in 2001, and has a plan to burst the Londoners' bubble. "The best way to catch them out is to get behind their defenders because they play a 4-4-2 formation with the defensive line quite high up the pitch," he said. "Their defence is not bad, as many people seem to think, but it will be a question of whether our passing and movement are good enough to find such spaces behind their defenders. If we mange to then we can do them some damage."

Clichy debut
Gilberto and Ray Parlour are out of Arsenal's midfield through injury, but captain Patrick Vieira's knee has been passed fit. Dennis Berkgamp does not fly to Spain, while Ashley Cole's back injury means a Champions League debut for 18-year-old Gaël Clichy in the left of defence. Manager Arsène Wenger, meanwhile, admits that their record in Spain could be a problem, but their superb group stage comeback after a terrible start gives them hope.

A good challenge’
"We have nothing to lose because it is a miracle that we're still in the competition," Wenger said. "This is a bonus. It's a good challenge to put our record in Spain right. We have never won there and we were 'caught out' in La Coruna, Valencia and Mallorca. It is also the case that the players thought we were 80 per cent out of the competition in the last round. Just because we have improved does not mean we will win the tournament - but we have started to win key games which we used to lose."

Reyes plays
José Antonio Reyes, a high-profile January signing from Sevilla FC, replaces Bergkamp and Wenger added: "He has played Vigo many times for Seville. I have not spoken to him about Vigo yet but I will."

Last updated: 24/02/04 12.45CET