Wenger relishes the prospect of Bergkamp's best

CHAMPIONS' LEAGUE: Wembley plays host to multinational match that could be classic while striker chases historic goal in France
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The Independent Football

While international matches continue to appeal to basic - and sometimes basest - patriotic instincts, club competitions grow ever more cosmopolitan. Yesterday Wembley's switchboard faced meltdown as tickets for the meeting of football's oldest two tribes went on sale; this evening the stadium will be full for a Champions' League game supposedly between representatives of England and Spain, in which the highest number of participants will be from the Netherlands.

While international matches continue to appeal to basic - and sometimes basest - patriotic instincts, club competitions grow ever more cosmopolitan. Yesterday Wembley's switchboard faced meltdown as tickets for the meeting of football's oldest two tribes went on sale; this evening the stadium will be full for a Champions' League game supposedly between representatives of England and Spain, in which the highest number of participants will be from the Netherlands.

If the managers of Arsenal and Barcelona - one of them French, the other Dutch - send out the sides they are expected to, there will be so many Orangemen involved that the match should be sponsored by Outspan: Dennis Bergkamp and Marc Overmars on one side; Ruud Hesp, Michael Reiziger, Winston Bogarde, Philip Cocu and Patrick Kluivert on the other, with Ronald de Boer in reserve and his injured twin brother, Frank, offering moral and vocal support.

No wonder there is such a high degree of interest in the match in the low country. Arsenal's Arsÿne Wenger added to it yesterday by suggesting that this was the sort of occasion for Bergkamp to prove that he is still among the most accomplished players anywhere in the world. The Footballer of the Year the season before last, but a peripheral figure in Arsenal's European campaign 12 months ago, the non-flying Dutchman has recently looked more like his old self, which Wenger puts down to better fortune with injuries.

"I believe Dennis is only now coming back to his best physical shape," he said. "This season he can play games without worrying. The whole of last season he had a groin problem, and then a hamstring and we kept having to rush him back. Finally [in the close season] we were able to give him proper rest. I believe we'll start seeing the best of Dennis Bergkamp, and he has to show it in big games like this."

In the first meeting of the two teams most fancied to qualify from Group B, three weeks ago, Bergkamp was instructed to drop off when Barcelona's defenders had the ball, and police their outstanding midfielder, Josep Guardiola. As his tackling is about on a par with his love of aeroplanes, the ploy was not a great success; Arsenal were lucky to be no more than one goal down at the interval, when a rollicking from Tony Adams and a change of tactics and emphasis by the manager brought about a stirring revival and Kanu's late equaliser.

Gilles Grimandi, having taken his captain's call to arms a little too literally and elbowed Guardiola, is suspended. Emmanuel Petit will not be ready before Saturday's visit to Chelsea, at the earliest, so the most likely formation tonight would have Fredrik Ljungberg wide on the right with Ray Parlour and Patrick Vieira between him and Overmars.

Wenger must then choose whether to start with Kanu, as in the Nou Camp, or go with Davor Suker, the scorer of two more goals against Everton on Saturday and something of a bogeyman to Barca from his days with Real Madrid and Seville. The Croatian would have to watch his step as well as his back: along with Martin Keown and (inevitably) Vieira, he is only one more yellow card away from a ban.

The Dutch-Brazilian-Portuguese-Spaniards have no serious injuries other than Frank de Boer's, but they are suffering from bruised pride after resting several players against the minnows of Numancia on Saturday, being held to a 3-3 draw and forfeiting top position in the league. "I saw a lot of individual mistakes," said the coach, Louis van Gaal. "If you don't play as a team, anything can happen."

Van Gaal is expected to bring back another of his countrymen in Kluivert, who was suspended at the weekend because of a sending-off in the thrilling 2-2 draw at home to Real Madrid He would replace Dani, the powerful striker who embarrassed Chelsea last season when at Real Mallorca.

Wembley was the scene of Barcelona's finest hour, in 1992, when Ronald Koeman - yet another Dutchman and now Van Gaal's assistant - scored the goal that ended a 30-year quest for the European Cup.

Arsenal, on the other hand, know that a victory would not only end any doubts about the psychology of playing at Wembley, but would put them on top of the group. At the risk of sounding a death knell, it could be a classic.

Arsenal (probable): Seaman; Dixon, Keown, Adams, Winterburn; Ljungberg, Parlour, Vieira, Overmars; Bergkamp, Suker.

Barcelona (probable): Hesp; Reiziger, Abelardo, Bogarde, Sergi; Cocu, Guardiola, Luis Enrique; Figo, Kluivert, Rivaldo.

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