Wenger: Arsenal can become the kings of Europe

 

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The Independent Online

Arsène Wenger said last night that his team can still win the Champions League as they prepare to face Milan at San Siro tonight in the first knockout round with this competition and the FA Cup Arsenal's only realistic hope of a first trophy since 2005.

With Chelsea the only other English club in the last 16, Arsenal return to the stadium where they triumphed four years ago to eliminate the then holders, Milan. The Gunners last reached the semi-finals three years ago and have not been to the final since 2006, the only time in their history they have reached that stage.

Asked if this team could claim the trophy, Wenger said: "We are concentrated on every game we play. We do not choose the games. We are Arsenal Football Club and we just try to win the next game. Is it FA Cup, Champions League or Premier League? I believe it is important we are strong everywhere.

"If I think we have no chance to win I would stay at home. I don't like to waste my time and I believe that what makes football interesting is that you can win everywhere. We have shown we can win everywhere. I have full confidence in this team that we can do it."

Wenger has the usual injury concerns, with a decision to be made this morning on whether to throw Kieran Gibbs straight back into action for the first time since 16 October. Per Mertesacker is out with an ankle ligament injury that could rule him out for the rest of the season.

There were major concerns about the state of the pitch at San Siro, too. A worried Wenger said: "They relaid it on Monday, we're playing Wednesday. So it's terrible. Out of respect for the supporters it should be a better pitch. I think they wanted to make the pitch better but they've made it worse. They told me it will be much better [tonight]. It has been relaid down the flanks very recently and you know what it is like when you have just laid a pitch. It takes time to settle and become flat. At the moment, it isn't."

Only Bacary Sagna from the team that started at San Siro four years ago is likely to start tonight, although Wenger defended the progress of his team. "When we played here [in 2008] Milan won the European Cup the year before and we knocked them out. We had an up-and-coming team, full of confidence, and a very young side as well." Can such a history repeat itself?

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