Pedro promising Arsenal a hot reception
Monday, March 7, 2011
Pedro Rodríguez has warned Arsenal FC that FC Barcelona will "not let them draw breath" when the two sides resume their round of 16 contest at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.
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Pedro Rodríguez has already proved beyond question that, notwithstanding his terrific skill and pace, he also possesses that most valued of qualities in top-level sport – timing.
The FC Barcelona forward has been picking his moments ever since he first caught the eye of Josep Guardiola – then starting out as Barcelona's B team coach – just as the Camp Nou outfit were debating where, rather than whether, to send him out on loan.
Some then questioned Pedro's goalscoring abilities when he accumulated a run of first-team appearances in 2008/09, including cameos in the UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey finals, but again the player was able to quell the doubts, registering in six different competitions the following season.
That historic run began when Barça defeated Athletic Club in the Spanish Super Cup. Among other notable efforts were his desperately late equaliser against Club Estudiantes de La Plata en route to the Catalan side's first ever FIFA Club World Cup crown and the only goal in the 2009 UEFA Super Cup against FC Shakhtar Donetsk.
Indeed, still almost six months short of two years into his maiden first-team contract, the 23-year-old flying winger already boasts eight club competition medals, with his rapid ascent having also brought him starts in the semi-final and final as Spain won the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Now his previously impeccable timing is under the microscope again. Pedro fired 18 goals in 21 Liga, cup and European outings between 26 October and 29 January, but since then he has netted just once in seven games. Barcelona have hardly suffered during that spell, yet with UEFA Champions League last-16 rivals Arsenal FC due to visit cradling a 2-1 first-leg lead on Tuesday, Guardiola would dearly welcome a goalscoring impact from his No17.
"I know that the first match was a great one for neutral fans to enjoy, but it drives us mad to lose games like that," Pedro told UEFA.com. "You don't come away thinking the match was good with an intense rhythm and loads of chances. You just think 'we lost' and you feel a burning desire to take the next opportunity, to get a better result and to reach the next round."
That view is shared by many around the Camp Nou and the Azulgrana feel they are unfortunate to be behind in the tie to opponents often likened to them for their similar attacking play. "We share a style of quick counterattacks, though I believe we created but missed chances to score more goals in the first half over there, which would have made the game very different," he added.
"In fact, the result was strange because we deserved to win. You also need a little bit of luck, but we suffered a second case of Arsenal being behind to us at their place only to come back into the tie. At the Camp Nou, we have to be ready to not be caught out by quick counterattacks, press them tightly and not let them draw breath."
Home advantage proved crucial against the Gunners last April when a four-goal display from Lionel Messi sent Guardiola's team through to the semi-finals with a 6-3 aggregate win. While he knows that it must be the players, not the supporters, who turn the current tie around, Pedro fully believes Barça will make more of the occasion once again.
"Part of our confidence that we can achieve the necessary result is down to knowing we're much stronger in front of our own fans, playing our style of football on our own pitch," he said. "The scoreline is not in our favour, Arsenal have the advantage, but with concentration and motivation we're able to go out and repeat what we've done previously and turn this around."