Bendtner up front about lead role at Nou Camp

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The Independent Football

Nicklas Bendtner has never suffered from a shortage of confidence over what he sees as his role in the Arsenal team and after his three goals against Leyton Orient on Wednesday night in his side's FA Cup fifth-round replay he said that leading the line against Barcelona in four days' time would hold no fears for him.

It was Bendtner who scored the first goal of the game when Arsenal played the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie in the Nou Camp last season, although Lionel Messi took control after that and replied with four of his own to eliminate Arsenal. On Tuesday, Arsène Wenger's team return to the stadium to defend a 2-1 lead against the most dangerous club side in the world.

It will be a depleted Arsenal team with no Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott and possibly Alex Song, who indicated on Wednesday night that he is struggling to be fit for tomorrow's Premier League game against Sunderland as well as Tuesday's game.

Cesc Fabregas should be back but it is Van Persie's absence which will be arguably the hardest to compensate for.

Bendtner, 23, has started just 12 games all season, only two of which have been in the Premier League, and his three goals against Orient took his total for the season to a modest nine. He has, however, suffered from injury, and on Wednesday there was no doubting that, as a replacement for Van Persie in the central role among the front three, Bendtner looked a better bet than Marouane Chamakh.

The next eight days bring key games in three competitions against Sunderland, Barcelona and Manchester United, with the potential for Bendtner to take the starring role. It is two years since he made his original outspoken proclamation that he should be playing "every minute of every match and always be in the team", a view that he repeated in November, and he shows no sign of changing his mind.

Asked whether he would have any qualms about leading the line against Barcelona on Tuesday, Bendtner said: "Of course not."

He started on the right side of the three against Orient but, provided he was picked ahead of Chamakh, would hope to be given the central role in Spain.

"I prefer to play up front, I have never hidden that fact," Bendtner said. "But if the manager asks me to do a job on the right, in a little bit of a different role where I can come inside as well, then you have just got to play there to help the team in the best way you can.

"[Scoring against Barcelona] is the dream scenario. It is a difficult place to go and Barcelona have not failed to score there for a long time, but we have to try to do the same as we did here, try to be compact and press in a good way, to have a good balance in the team and then obviously try and take our chances because Barcelona always score when they play at home. We have to take our chances as well."

Injuries from a car crash affected him last season and this time around he has suffered from a groin injury which the player himself now says he has put completely behind him.

He said: "I believe we have the players and the mentality to create something special.

"At the end of the day, we know all you guys are going to rate us on one thing, and that is what we are trying to achieve.

"That is the way you rate strikers on, their goals. It is the same with teams – it's what they win. It's part of the game. We want to try to turn our beautiful football into trophies."



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