By Chris Harris

Emmanuel Eboue believes that Arsenal beat Barcelona because they have "grown up" this season.

The Ivory Coast international came off the bench in both legs of last year's clash with the Catalan giants but he played from the start on Wednesday night, deputising for the suspended right back Bacary Sagna.

Eboue helped to keep Barcelona at bay in the second half, laying the foundations for those late goals from Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin that gave Arsenal a 2-1 lead to take to the Nou Camp.

The 27-year-old is one of Arsène Wenger's most experienced players - he played in the Champions League Final against Barca in 2006 - and he thinks the increasing maturity of the whole squad has helped Arsenal to scale new heights.

"This year we have got more maturity in our team," said Eboue. "We are so happy to have Arsène Wenger as our manager because he believes in us. We have grown up this year and have done very well.

"The game was very, very tight and it was very important for us to win. Our manager believes in us and he told us to give our best and not to be scared to play. In the second half we all gave our best on the pitch.

"That goal [from Robin van Persie] was very important for us. It was so difficult for us to score but his goal gave us more power to push, to press, and then we scored the second goal. Arshavin, I respect him a lot. He is a great player and I am so happy for him. When he came on he did well and scored."

Barcelona are still favourites to advance to the Quarter-Finals but Eboue thinks Arsenal have a fighting chance of springing another surprise at the Nou Camp - whether he or Sagna starts at right back.

"Why not? I always believe in us," he said. "If you play football and don't believe in yourself you should stop playing. I believe because we have done very well in the first leg. Now we will try to forget this game and look forward to the FA Cup, the League, the Carling Cup and then the second leg.

"If I play I will give my best for the team. Whether it is me or Bacary Sagna it doesn't matter. We are team-mates, I respect him, he respects me so it doesn't matter who plays in the second leg."

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17 Feb 2011