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Deferential Ibagaza undaunted by Arsenal test

Ariel Ibagaza is wholly aware of the threat carried by Arsenal FC but the Villarreal CF midfielder remains confident his team can recover from a 1-1 first-leg draw for the second UEFA Champions League round in succession.

Villarreal will rely heavily on Ariel Ibagaza (right) with other midfielders absent
Villarreal will rely heavily on Ariel Ibagaza (right) with other midfielders absent ©Getty Images

Ariel Ibagaza has emphasised that his Villarreal CF team-mates are full of respect for Arsenal FC but remains confident the Spanish side can recover from first-leg disappointment for the second UEFA Champions League round in succession.

Respect but no fear
The 1-1 draw between the sides at El Madrigal last week means Arsenal hold the slender advantage in the quarter-final tie yet, having beaten Panathinaikos FC from an identical position in the first knockout round, Ibagaza believes Villarreal can repeat the feat in north London. "We respect Arsenal, but we are not afraid of them," said the Argentinian midfielder, whose goal in Athens set his team on course for a 2-1 win at Panathinaikos in the second leg of their last-16 meeting. "We're coming to a really nice stadium and hopefully we can play well here and do enough to qualify."

Contrasting halves
The first leg was a tale of two halves, with Villarreal having the better of the opening period and taking the lead in unstoppable fashion thanks to Marcos Senna's tenth-minute thunderbolt, only to be pegged back by Emmanuel Adebayor's equaliser midway through the second half. "We played really well in the first half and had lots of chances to score more goals but Arsenal were the better team in the second half," Ibagaza conceded. "This time we will try to play our own game and keep the ball on the floor. Hopefully that will get us through."

'Play our football'
Problems have been mounting at Villarreal of late, with Saturday's 2-0 home defeat by Málaga CF leaving them with just one win in their last five matches in all competitions. A hamstring injury to the pivotal Senna – who joins Santi Cazorla on the sidelines – has compounded their woe. In their absence more is likely to rest on the shoulders of Ibagaza, but the 32-year-old is ready for the extra responsibility. "We know Arsenal have got good midfielders and forwards, so it's going to be a difficult match," he said. "However, we can forget all about the weekend defeat and play our football – and qualify."