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Djourou tipping Arsenal to achieve greatness

Arsenal FC defender Johan Djourou feels his side stand on the verge of "greatness" after giving themselves a 2-1 lead against FC Barcelona in Wednesday's round of 16 opener.

Djourou tipping Arsenal to achieve greatness
Djourou tipping Arsenal to achieve greatness ©UEFA.com

Johan Djourou believes that Arsenal FC's thrilling comeback victory against FC Barcelona suggests Arsène Wenger's team lie on the brink of "greatness".

The north London outfit feel they passed a huge test of character in wiping out David Villa's first-half opener before scoring twice themselves in the frenetic final quarter of another momentous tussle with the Catalan giants. It was Arsenal's first victory against Barcelona in six attempts and only the third defeat their opponents have suffered in 40 games this season.

It even surpassed the home team's recovery in last season's UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, when a 2-0 deficit in the first leg became 2-2 by the final whistle. Barça exerted their authority by winning the second leg of that tie 4-1, but Djourou said that Arsenal had learned lessons from those meetings 12 months ago, with the late goals from Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin edging them in front ahead of the return on 8 March.

"We [were in] a big battle last time because they were just amazing, but we showed a lot of character tonight and to come back from behind and win was incredible," said the Swiss international. "It showed that even being 1-0 down against the best team in the world is not the end and I think our team has a lot of potential to achieve greatness at the end of the season.

"We have a lot of big games in the league and the Carling Cup final before the second leg and that could work in our favour. If we do well in those games, we shall be on a high."

On a night that reverberated with sublime technique and the sight of top performers reaching for the decisive moment to give their team superiority, there was relief for Arsenal when Lionel Messi failed to convert two opportunities he would normally have put away. It will make some Arsenal supporters fear he will prosper at Camp Nou in the same way he managed in last season's return, when he scored all four of the home side's goals in a virtuoso display.

"They have so many talented players that we can't say that he [Messi] will be the key to the second leg," Djourou added. "It's amazing for defenders like myself and Laurent [Koscielny] to play against the best and it's hard work because they make you run so much. You have to go forwards, backwards, this way and then that way and it's important that you keep your concentration. Obviously they will come at us over there, but if we can defend like we did tonight we know we have a chance."