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Home » Sport » Football

Wenger emphasises Arsenal belief

Arsene Wenger accepts his Arsenal side remain Champions League underdogs despite their first-leg victory over Barcelona - but thinks a new-found self-belief could prove crucial.

Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin both scored in the last 12 minutes to turn imminent defeat into a famous victory at the Emirates, with David Villa on target in the first half to give the Spanish champions a vital away goal.

"I am highly delighted. It was a special football night," said Wenger. "The game promised a lot and fulfilled that promise. It was two exceptional teams who tried always to be positive. We are not favourites now, but what is important is the belief that we have a chance."

He added: "Barcelona are still favourites. We know now that we can beat them, though. We did not know that last year.

"This gives us a chance to to go to Barcelona with belief. Every game is difficult but we will prepare well and be highly focused."

Wenger was particularly happy to see his players keep their composure during the phases of the game when Barca denied them possession for long periods. That is typically Arsenal's job in the Premier League and he appreciated his team's versatility.

"Against Barcelona you are exposed many times when they have possession but we kept resilient and strong," Wenger said. "The problem with their possession is that if you are a fraction late you are in trouble. You have to be tight with the marking and if you don't it is difficult.

"We were prepared mentally to live with that. Usually we have the ball more than our opponents but we knew that 60% of the time we would have to be focused on them."

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola was complimentary of Arsenal's style and was measured in his assessment of the visitors' efforts. Villa delivered Guardiola's minimum requirement of an away goal, meaning victory in the second leg already looms large on his mind.

"I think we were okay. We have lost the first leg so we have to win the second leg," he said. "If we analyse this result it is not too bad. I think in general I am happy with the performance. But we need to score goals in the second leg. They will attack and we will attack too."


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