Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 24 May 2016

It's harder to gear up for Hull than Barcelona: Wenger

By Jim Van Wijik

Published 23/02/2016

Relaxed mood: Mathieu Flamini, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil prepare for Arsenal’s clash against Barcelona
Relaxed mood: Mathieu Flamini, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil prepare for Arsenal’s clash against Barcelona

Arsene Wenger admits Barcelona are almost perfect - but insists it is easier to prepare his Arsenal side for the Catalan giants than it was for Saturday's scoreless FA Cup draw against Hull.

The Gunners face a tough examination when they come up against Champions League holders Barcelona tonight as they look to progress past the round of 16 stage for the first time in five seasons.

With Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez forming a formidable front three for the visitors, many - including Wenger - make the La Liga side favourites.

Wenger believes Barcelona currently have "top, top class" attacking talent but says they have a chink in their armour and his players will take no preparing for the task at hand.

"The difficulty of the task is completely different but it is more difficult to prepare against Hull than Barcelona," he said.

"Against Barcelona everyone is naturally focused. It is more to create belief and confidence, because Barcelona are super-favourites in this game.

"Against Hull it is more to raise the urgency level and convince everybody that it is a very difficult game.

"Everyone is convinced that as a squad we need to have absolutely total focus to have a chance and that is what I try to raise. Belief, confidence.

"Of course, no team is perfect. But they are not far from it.

"We have to use every moment in the game where we have the chance to score, and as I said after the Hull game, we had 70 per cent of the time the ball but we didn't make a lot of it. Against Barcelona we will have the ball far less and we will have to make more of it."

Arsenal have suffered from poor results in the opening leg of knockout Champions League ties in recent years, last season losing 3-1 at home to Monaco before being eliminated on away goals following a 2-0 victory in the principality.

And Wenger wants his squad to show they have learned from previous mistakes.

"It is a good opportunity to show we have learned because it is true we have given ourselves a difficult task after the first home leg and maybe after we have been a bit too keen to make the difference in the first game," he added. "We need to find the right balance between being audacious because that is what you will need to be against Barca.

"We need to be strong defensively as a unit and not put ourselves in front of a very difficult task in the second leg."

Arsenal only scraped through to the latter phases after staging a comeback in their group having lost three of their opening four matches.

A 3-0 success in Olympiakos on the final matchday saw them edge through at the expense of the Greeks and Olivier Giroud, who scored a hat-trick in Piraeus, has pointed to Arsenal's strength in depth as a positive as they also challenge for the FA Cup and Premier League.

"Barcelona are favourites," he said. "But we have good quality this year, even if we had a lot of injuries, but we did well during a tough moment in the Autumn and we have our players back.

"We are very happy with that. For example Danny (Welbeck) made the difference against Leicester, I was very pleased for him. We need everybody, we have a strong squad and that is why we play in every competition."

Champions League: Emirates Stadium (7.45pm)



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