By Chris Harris
After seeing off Real Madrid, Juventus and Villarreal, Arsenal have just one more obstacle to overcome in their quest to become European champions for the first time.
But what an obstacle. Barcelona, La Liga champions and widely regarded as the finest club side on the continent, will stand in Arsenal's way at the Stade de France.
On paper, Barca are a formidable force with Ronaldinho, Eto'o, Deco, Giuly and Xavi offering pace, power and flair going forward, while Carlos Puyol marshals a defence which has conceded just four times in this season's competition.
So how can Arsenal penetrate such powerful opponents in Paris? Who do Barcelona fear in the Arsenal side? How will the Final be won and lost? We asked Inigo Gurruchaga of El Pais for his expert insight ahead of Wednesday's big game.
Inigo, Barcelona will start Wednesday's Final as favourites to win. But do they have weaknesses Arsenal can exploit?
"Their weakest point is in the full-back positions, where they don't have the same marking disciplines as they do in other areas of the pitch. The former Arsenal boys, Silvinho and Van Bronckhorst, are very good going forward but they are not natural defenders. The same applies to Presas Oleguer on the right, he is a super player but is more fragile defensively. Barcelona have very good defenders in the centre and Edmilson offers extra protection as the holding midfield player, but they can be exploited on the wings.
"The goalkeeper, Victor Valdes, is another possible weakness. There is a lot of pressure on him in every match. He is a very self-assured man but there have been games this season when he has been at fault and he doesn't have the stature of his team-mates. He's not in the Spanish squad and there is pressure on him performing in a big match like this."
England v Spain has been a common theme in European competition this season. What factors will decide Wednesday's game?
"Traditionally the question has been about which team imposes its rhythm on the game. There is a slower pace to the Spanish game, they wait and wait to find an opening, and some English teams in the past have been hypnotised by that. When Manchester United lost 4-0 in the Nou Camp, they were unable to find their rhythm, they couldn't measure their runs. But when an English team can put in place a high-tempo English game, Spanish teams can be blown away, they cannot cope. It's more ambiguous with Barcelona v Arsenal, but the rhythm of Arsenal's game is faster and if they can impose that then Barcelona will have difficulties."
How do you expect Barcelona to approach the game? Which Arsenal players do they see as the greatest threat?
"I think there is one big question for Barcelona and that is to stop Cesc Fabregas. Putting pressure on him in midfield will be the main focus for Frank Rijkaard. Deco and Edmilson will need to pressure him as soon as he has the ball and try to stop him finding his passes. Barcelona's aim will be find opportunities and stop Arsenal's counter-attacking game. The conducter for Arsenal has been Fabregas and it is a beautiful thing for Cesc because he comes from Barcelona and he ends the season against his childhood team, but they will look to break him. He looks for Henry and that is the point where Barcelona will have to put pressure on him. I think Villarreal did well, they gave him no space. Fabregas is a crucial link for Arsenal to move forward and Deco in particular will look to stop him deep in the Arsenal half."
How is Fabregas perceived in Barcelona and Spain?
"First, I should say that he was unknown a year ago. People ask who he is because they had not seen him play in Spain before he went to England, like for example Gaizka Mendieta or even Lauren and Reyes. They knew those players' background but Cesc was unknown because he hadn't had an opportunity at Barcelona. Now he is in the Spanish national side and there is a great curiosity about him. They have not seen him a lot and there are questions about how good he is. There is no resentment about him leaving, he is not seen as betraying Barcelona, he has taken the decision to have a beautiful life in London. It was a justified calculation to leave Barcelona because he had Xavi and Iniesta - both young players - ahead of him."16 May 2006