By Chris Harris

Arsenal and Barcelona have both improved since they met last year, according to Arsène Wenger.

The Frenchman will pit his wits against opposite number Pep Guardiola on Wednesday night in the first leg of a highly-anticipated Champions League tie. For Wenger it’s a chance to avenge last season’s 6-3 aggregate defeat in the Quarter-Finals.

Barcelona are flying high in La Liga and produced perhaps the most impressive performance of the century when they brushed aside Real Madrid 5-0 in El Clasico earlier this season.

Wenger accepts that Barcelona are better than ever but he insists that the same applies to his own squad.

“We are different because we are in better form going into this game than we were last year and in a better shape physically,” said the manager.

“Going into this game last year we had some players who were not available, some who were not 100 per cent going into the game. I believe we are more mature as well.

“Having said that, I concede as well that Barcelona is even stronger than last year. But I think we can give them a very interesting test.”

Barcelona have replaced Zlatan Ibrahimovic with David Villa since the teams last met while Yaya Toure has joined Manchester City. But Wenger believes they are collectively stronger.

“They got better as a team, that doesn’t mean they produce every week the 45 minutes they produced against us [at Emirates Stadium last season].

“I believe I don’t want to deny anything of their quality in their first 45 minutes against us. I believe as well that we were spectators of their game in the first half and that’s what we want to stop.”

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
12 Feb 2011