Arsenal vs Barcelona: Alexis Sanchez ‘must stay calm to hurt Barça’

Alexis Sanchez had three seasons with Barcelona and will be keen to prove a point 

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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger will tell Alexis Sanchez to relax ahead of tonight’s Champions League game with Barcelona at the Emirates Stadium because he is anxious his £30m forward will not be in the right mental state to play at his top level.

Sanchez was at Barça for three relatively disappointing seasons before joining Arsenal in 2014. Wenger said yesterday that the Chilean would be so motivated for tonight that he would intervene to make sure the player’s mind was only on the game, keeping him in what the Arsenal manager calls “the performance zone”.

Wenger said: “Sanchez will be fired up, but that doesn’t mean he will be in the right zone. The performance zone is where you are focused and relaxed. And that is what is difficult in sport. Sometimes when you are too focused you are not relaxed. The performance zone [is] where everything looks easy. Sometimes when you play against your former club you are not necessarily in that zone.”

Wenger confirmed that he would have “a little word” with Sanchez before kick-off, to ensure that he is in “the performance zone”, rather than being “too focused” on proving anything to Barcelona.

Sanchez has had a difficult spell recently, struggling for rhythm after missing two months with a hamstring injury sustained at Norwich City in November. He has scored just one goal in six appearances since returning against Burnley in the FA Cup fourth round.

Wenger acknowledged that it would need a team effort to beat Barcelona tonight. “Sanchez can help us to win the game,” he said. “But I know that not one player will win us the game. We need a top-level team performance, where every body is spot  on in the discipline and sharp physically and ready to work for the team. We need all  our players.”