Arsene Wenger claims Arsenal have closed divide with Barcelona

Arsene Wenger today warned Barcelona that Arsenal are desperate to prove the divide between themselves and the greatest team in the world has vanished.

The rivals meet in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie at Emirates Stadium tomorrow night in an eagerly-awaited repeat of last season's quarter-final.

Arsenal were humbled 6-3 on aggregate, losing 4-1 at the Nou Camp after Lionel Messi plundered four goals and escaping with a 2-2 draw at home.

The encounters pointed to a gulf in class but Wenger insisted that over the last 12 months the Gunners, who welcome back Samir Nasri from injury, have been transformed.

"We don't deny the quality of Barcelona, but what is important for us is we have a good opportunity to show who we are now," he said.

"Not only that, we also want to show Barcelona we are capable of knocking them out.

"We have the belief and a strong togetherness to show we are a different team now.

"In the first half of the home game last year we were spectators a little bit and were a bit inhibited.

"I believe that confidence-wise and mentally we are a completely different team today.

"We have made our way forward by challenging in the Premier League and we are still in all competitions.

"If you look at the predictions pre-season, nobody in England predicted we would be where we are today.

"We have made our own way through our own strength and mental belief.

"Losing to Barcelona made us better because we came out of the second game with a lot of frustrations after missing the turning point when we were 1-0 up.

"We are now a stronger team because we have attitude and I have not seen many teams with such consistent focus every day.

"We are in an ideal condition to face Barcelona. We cannot complain, we have the belief, the confidence and the players available.

"We want to show how good we are. We want to show the belief we have in our game and in our quality."

Wenger stated that disposing of the Spanish champions - the second leg is in Barcelona on March 8 - will offer a tantalising glimpse of Champions League glory.

"We want to win this competition and we know the only way to do that is to beat the super-favourites," he said.

"Barcelona are certainly the best team in the world at the moment.

"If we knock Barcelona out, we straight away have a good chance to win the tournament."

After being crushed over two legs last season, it has been suggested Arsenal may have to change their approach to contain the competition's favourites.

But Wenger insists they can prevail with their high-tempo attacking game.

"Everybody expects an exciting match because we are two teams who play quality football," he said.

"Tomorrow we want to be faithful to our philosophy, to make sure we dominate the game, that we pass the ball and that we have possession of the ball.

"If we do that, we have a very good chance of beating them."

Arsenal welcome back Nasri from a hamstring injury sustained on January 30 while Tomas Rosicky has recovered from a groin problem, but Diaby is out with a sore calf.

Nasri, the club's top scorer this season with 14 goals, trained this morning and could start the first leg.

"Samir is in the squad and the starting line-up will be decided tomorrow," said Wenger.

"I will take no medical risk. It's good to have him in the squad.

"He's recovered quicker than expected. I said it will be 21 days but it will be only 17 days.

"Everybody's absolutely adamant that he's completely medically available. It's down to me to make the decision."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week