By Chris Harris
Johan Djourou is not scared of Lionel Messi.
The Swiss defender issued a rally cry ahead of arguably the biggest test of his career when Barcelona visit Emirates Stadium for the first leg of an eagerly-awaited Champions League tie on Wednesday night.
Messi is by common consent the world's finest footballer: he has 35 goals in 28 games this season and, in case you'd forgotten, he scored four times to dump Arsenal out of Europe last April. But Djourou won't be driven to distraction by the Argentine.
"Barcelona are a great team but it is not just about Messi," he said.
"He has great, great service from players like Xavi and [Andres] Iniesta so we have to be focused as a group. We have to get behind the back and be together. It is how we can block the space for him to run into.
"You do not get scared [of facing Messi]. If I was scared, I wouldn't be playing tomorrow. You have to be excited not scared. It is true Messi is good one versus one but, as cover, we can be hard to beat.
"We know they are a great team going forward and we will have to defend well and be focused for 90 minutes. But do not forget we have great players as well. It will be interesting."
Djourou played no part in Arsenal's 6-3 aggregate defeat to the Catalan giants in last year's Quarter-Finals - indeed he spent virtually the entire campaign sidelined by a knee injury.
Arsène Wenger made a point of not overloading Djourou with games in the first half of this season but, since the turn of the year, the 24-year-old has been a virtual ever-present at the back. The Swiss international believes he has proved his worth.
"Everything has gone well," he said. "I was injured and it has taken time to come back. I have worked hard and have the confidence of the manager. I am working hard and am showing everyone what I can do. I am happy everyone is doing well.
"I don't think there were doubts [when I came back]. You have doubts when you are out and you don't know how long you will be out for. I had no doubt I would come back to my best.
"For me, it [playing regularly] was a good point to prove that my knee was fine and that my injury was in the past. It was a difficult time for me."Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source