Wenger helps Fabregas to become focus of attention for Spain

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The Independent Online

It is a measure of the confidence that Arsène Wenger has in his young midfielder Cesc Fabregas that when the Spanish translator stumbled in the official Uefa press conference in the depths of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium last night it was to the 18-year-old Catalan that the Arsenal manager turned.

It was also, of course, another clear example of Wenger's mischievous sense of humour and, although Fabregas looked a little sheepish, he took up the task fluently until another translator intervened.

It is also a sign of the importance of Fabregas to Arsenal - and to Spain - that he was talking in the first place ahead of such a prestigious match. The interest in him here relates to the national team for a young midfielder poached from Barcelona by Wenger and who has provoked the interest of Real Madrid.

When asked whether he was aware that Luis Aragones, the Spanish national coach, will be in the stadium, Fabregas, who has yet to be capped, replied: "I don't think about it. Right now I'm playing for Arsenal. I'm young and I've a lot of time." However, he could not help adding: "But, yes, it will be exciting."

Fabregas may be young - in the most youthful of Arsenal teams he remains the youngest (unless 16-year-old Theo Walcott arrives from the bench) - but his responsibilities far out-weigh his years. At times this season it has been a burden which has taken its toll on his form and, although Fabregas claimed the team were "doing well", there was meaning in his next statement. He said: "We have to show people - the ones who sometimes do not believe in us - that we can come back in this type of game."

Fabregas, along with his fellow Spaniard Jose Antonio Reyes, is the only Arsenal player to have featured in every game of this Champions' League campaign. He is also, of course, the second youngest player to score in it - at 17 years and 218 days. More significantly, tonight will still only be his 12th match in European football. A lot is being expected, especially when the emotional factor of returning to Spain is also counted.

"Of course it is a special game when you come back to your own country for the first time and when it is against Real Madrid then it is even more [special] because they are a big, big team in Spain," Fabregas acknowledged.

"But I think we have great qualities in our team and believe in ourselves," the youngster added. "We can do well against them."

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