By Chris Harris
If you think Arsenal will stroll to victory at Underhill on Saturday, think again.
Arsène Wenger's team have enjoyed a few thumping wins over Barnet during their long sequence of summer fixtures - they scored 10 six years ago - but the last four meetings have been far tighter.
Arsenal edged two of them, but not by much, and the other two ended in draws, including last year when Elliott Charles grabbed a late equaliser. So don't be surprised if Barnet keep their illustrious opponents in check this weekend.
Saturday will be Mark Stimson's first taste of this showpiece after he took over as Barnet manager last month. He hasn't wasted any time either, making 11 new signings already, and the Bees boss admits that the lure of a friendly with Arsenal helped his wheeling and dealing.
"For the new players I've signed for the club it was a big thing for me to say we were playing Arsenal in pre-season," Stimson told Arsenal.com.
"We've also got the likes of Charlton and Southampton coming to Underhill, so it is a good selling point for me. I know all the new players and the old players are looking forward to Saturday's game immensely and it could possibly be tighter than people might expect.
"The clubs are at different stages of pre-season, the Arsenal players will have come back after us and we'll be at certain levels but hopefully it will be an enjoyable game for everybody involved. We've had a game already but I wouldn't have thought that gives us an advantage! If Arsenal's players get the ball popping around it will be very difficult for our guys."
This game is billed as a 'friendly' but it has had a competitive edge in recent years - anyone who attended last July’s game at Underhill saw Barnet's veteran striker Paul Furlong gave Thomas Vermaelen a real examination on his Arsenal debut.
Stimson expects more of the same on Saturday but, like Wenger, his No 1 priority is clear.
"The main thing is no injuries, that is the biggest thing in pre-season and I'm sure it is the same for Arsenal," said Stimson.
"It is a friendly and, although all games are competitive, my boys will certainly be told not to go out in any way, shape or form and try and put a player out for any period of time. We really do appreciate clubs like Arsenal coming to us and playing us in pre-season friendlies and we don’t want to build a bad relationship with a badly-timed tackle or something like that.
"We will try and compete with Arsenal on the day but that is going to be a massive ask."
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