Thursday 18 January 2018

We will not target Messi, says Wenger

Giles Mole

Arsene Wenger has said he will not instruct his players to deliberately target Barcelona forward Lionel Messi in tonight's Champions League quarter-final at the Emirates.

Armed with a star-studded squad, including in-form Argentina international Messi and former Arsenal captain Thierry Henry, Barca will be determined to take a lead back to Spain for the return leg.

All eyes will be on Messi, 22, who has been in captivating form. The Argentina striker is world and European player of the year and has four Champions League goals this season, on top of the 25 he has in La Liga.

Former England defender Sol Campbell scored for Arsenal in their 2-1 defeat to Barca, in the 2006 final, and could be up against Messi just two months after returning to top-class football.

However, Wenger has insisted that Messi will not be singled out for special treatment in a bid to nullify the Argentine's attacking threat.

Wenger said: "It would be stupid if one of my players badly fouled Messi because he would be sent-off.

"If you find a player that I told he has to kick somebody off the pitch in my last 25 or 30 years I am in the job, you introduce him to me. Bring him back to me."

Wenger, though, has warned Barcelona his young Arsenal side can cause their opponents plenty of trouble.

Arsenal will give captain Cesc Fabregas every chance to recover from heavy bruising to his leg and knee as the influential Spanish midfielder aims to face his boyhood club.

"If we produce the best performance, then we can we can beat any side in the world," Wenger said.

"What you want from your team is not to worry too much about the strengths of Barcelona, but more focus on our strengths and our qualities.

"We must be brave, go for it and then we have every chance."

Wenger has acknowledged the futility of trying to muscle and mark Barcelona out of the game, and instead suggested Arsenal will try to play the Spaniards at their own game.

"Is the ugly way the best way to win? That is where you have to convince me," he said.

"I believe the most efficient way is to play good football and not to kick the ball in the stand, because there is no goal there, the goal is on the pitch.

"We will try to play the way we are used to - you cannot change that from one match to the next, but we do want to be efficient with our game."

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport