A strange optimism has inspired RC Celta de Vigo ahead of their trip to Arsenal FC.
By Adrian Clarke & Darren Tulett
Despite losing 3-2 against Arsenal FC in the home leg of their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie, RC Celta de Vigo are planning a victory parade at Highbury on Wednesday night.
Struggling in the Primera División while Arsenal continue to surpass themselves in the Premiership, the Celta players are nonetheless quietly confident that their hosts will not get the easy ride many have predicted. Chief among them the former Arsenal defender Sylvinho.
'We can and will win'
"We must be the only team who lose at their own ground but still feel confident and sure of overcoming the defeat," the 29-year-old told uefa.com. "It is amazing, because with all my years in football, it would be normal to expect a team who lose 3-2 at home to be half-beaten mentally. This is not happening with Celta. We can and will win in London."
Having played for Arsenal in the Champions League, the Brazilian left-back knows how much the competition means to Arsène Wenger's side. This, he believes, could be an advantage to the underdogs. "I know Arsenal extremely well, and I know they feel they owe this title to their supporters," he said. "The Champions League has become an obsession to the people at Arsenal. It seems they want to prove to Manchester United [FC] and the English media that they are capable of winning this trophy."
On the break
"Personally, I think this can be an advantage to us, because they will push forward most of the time and keep the ball in our half of the pitch," added Sylvinho. "This will allow us a greater chance of surprising them and catching their defence off guard."
'We can do it again'
Midfield player Peter Luccin concurred. The 24-year-old, who joined Celta from Paris Saint-Germain FC as a replacement for Claude Makelele, took confidence from his team's goalscoring form in the first leg, telling uefa.com: "We scored twice against them in the first match and can do it again. I genuinely believe we can win."
The former French Under-21 international will be reunited with Patrick Vieira at Highbury, and is well aware of the damage the Arsenal captain can do. "I know Pat well," said Luccin. "We both started out at [AS] Cannes, which means we were taught to play football in the same way. He's the best in the world in his position."
Vieira is a worry, and so is striker Thierry Henry. "Not many defenders can stop Thierry," Luccin admitted. "He can do it all. But the problem is, there's not only him. There are four or five other players who can score if he's not having a great day."
However, both Luccin and Sylvinho maintained that Arsenal's impressive armoury of goalscorers could yet be their achilles heel. "Arsenal are not the kind of team to sit back on their lead," said Luccin. "They can't help but come forward. If we can win the ball and break, we can hurt them. If we can score first, maybe it will just get them worried. Who knows what could happen then?"
"We can surprise them," added Sylvinho. "Never mind if it is at their home ground. I told my companions that playing at Highbury is not the hell you might think. I played there, and I think I can give a few tips to my friends."