Guardiola plays down Walcott threat

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola has played down the importance of Theo Walcott in tonight's Champions League quarter-final second leg against Arsenal.

The England winger came off the bench to score Arsenal's first goal in their unlikely first-leg comeback, when they came back from two goals behind to draw 2-2 at the Emirates stadium.

Walcott's pace seem to worry the Catalans' defence, but Guardiola insisted the real reason Barca failed to win was down to Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, who made a succession of fine saves to deny the Catalans, particularly in the first half.

"Let's be clear, Walcott was not the determining factor, the determining factor was Almunia, who saved 12,000 balls," the 39-year-old said.

Barca left-back Maxwell was criticised in the Spanish press for failing to cope with the pace of Walcott as Arsenal got back into the game.

"He is fast," the former Ajax defender said after the game.

"I looked to the linesman to see if the flag was up but by the time I looked up and looked back, Walcott was gone."

Guardiola defended the Brazilian on Friday, but the Barca coach is set to deploy fit-again Eric Abidal on the left tomorrow night after the France defender made an impressive return from injury against Athletic Bilbao at the weekend.

Abidal is much quicker than Maxwell and the former Lyon full-back is clearly unimpressed by the Englishman's ability to run 100 metres in just over 10 seconds, a feat highlighted by the local media in Monday's press conference, in which Walcott appeared alongside his coach, Arsene Wenger.

"It may be really good for him to run 100 metres in a little over 10 seconds, but the aim (in football) is to get to the goal," Abidal said on Saturday.

"We'll wait there for him and we'll see what he can do with the ball - let's see if he can get past four defenders."

With Abidal almost certain to replace Maxwell, three of the four defenders will be different to the ones that started in north London on Wednesday.

Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, currently the club's two first-choice centre-backs, both miss out through suspension, with the latter also injured.

With summer signing Dmitro Chygrynskiy ineligible, Gabi Milito and Rafa Marquez look set to start tomorrow.

Milito is still feeling his way back following more than a year and a half on the sidelines, while Marquez has been plagued by injury and poor form this season.

Walcott may quietly be relishing the chance to run at those two, but Guardiola says keeping the ball, something Barcelona do very well, is the key to denying the England winger and his Arsenal team-mates at the Nou Camp.

"Walcott is so speedy, he has strong legs, he played very well against us (on Wednesday) and also in the last league game," he said.

"But we will try to keep the ball, that's the best way to stop Arsenal and to stop Walcott as well."

And the Barca coach says his side will go out and play their usual attacking game.

"We are going to try to be ourselves, to keep the ball, to get the ball and play with great intensity," he said.

"And I think Mr Wenger will want to do the same."

Barcelona could only draw in London, despite enjoying almost 70 per cent of the possession on the night.

But Guardiola says the side that has the ball most at the Nou Camp will be the one that progresses to the semi-finals to face either Inter Milan or CSKA Moscow.

"The team that has the ball most will win the game," he said.

"Let's hope that's us, we have to keep going - tomorrow is our biggest game of the season."

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

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.

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes