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Wenger eyes last-eight place

Published: Wednesday 10 March 2004, 13.00CET
Arsenal FC manager Arsène Wenger is confident his side can hold their lead against RC Celta de Vigo.

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Published: Wednesday 10 March 2004, 13.00CET

Wenger eyes last-eight place

Arsenal FC manager Arsène Wenger is confident his side can hold their lead against RC Celta de Vigo.

By Trevor Haylett in London

It will be something of a surprise if Arsenal FC, holding a 3-2 advantage after the away leg of the UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie with RC Celta de Vigo, do not now go through to the quarter-finals, and manager Arsène Wenger is banking on his side's recent experiences to help them complete the task.

'Quick to punish'
Asked if complacency could be a problem at Highbury, Wenger drew on his side's 5-1 win at Portsmouth FC in the FA Cup on Saturday. "We eased up when we were 5-0 up and Portsmouth [then] had several chances as well as scoring," said the Arsenal manager. "You must respect your opponent and play your game. We have seen how quickly we can be punished if we ease off, and that's a good warning for us ahead of this game. The best way to approach a game is to try and win it."

Remarkable revival
The Frenchman has overseen Arsenal's remarkable resurgence in this competition after the Premiership leaders failed to win any of their first three Group B games, against FC Internazionale, FC Dynamo Kyiv and FC Lokomotiv Moskva. However, four successive victories not only enabled the London club to win the section but also put them in the driving seat in this tie.

Crucial quality
Wenger is looking for his side to continue their impressive recent form to clinch a quarter-final place for only the second time, saying: "We must be faithful to the quality of the game we love to play. The great teams are the ones that won with style."

'Play to our potential'
With Dennis Bergkamp available again, Wenger is confident his side can progress. "Our first priority is to fulfil our potential," he said. "I don't know how far we are from our maximum but there's a lot of improvement to do as we are still a young team. We must keep our momentum going as every game is decisive now. You are always judged by the trophies you have won."

Heavy home defeat
Celta's latest game also finished 5-1 - but Raddy Antic's side were on the receiving end. What made it worse was that the heavy home defeat came courtesy of RCD Espanyol, one of two sides beneath them in the Primera División.

Leaking goals
The result meant that the Spanish team have conceded 12 goals in their last three games and coach Raddy Antic said: "We realise what our situation is but we are going to try and put it to one side and enjoy this important game. I do not want my team to go out on to the pitch feeling inferior. I hope we have the luck that was missing in the first game, but we are in no hurry to score an early goal. This game will be won by solidity and conviction."

Two victories
One possible area of optimism for the visitors lies in Celta's 100 per cent record in England. They have won on each of their previous two visits, against Aston Villa FC and Liverpool FC in the 1998/99 UEFA Cup.

Cavallero return
First-choice goalkeeper Pablo Cavallero is in line to return despite suffering a broken nose in the first leg, but he admitted the odds were stacked against the Spanish side. "We are travelling with a bad result from the first leg, but we have to play," Cavallero said. "We know it is difficult because Arsenal are a great side, they are at home and we lost the first leg - but we have to try."

Last updated: 10/03/04 12.05CET