Arsenal defender Johan Djourou has backed his team-mates to stifle Barcelona star Lionel Messi in their Champions League clash on Wednesday.
The Swiss international missed last season’s quarter-final defeat to Barca through injury, but remains confident that the English side can get past Barcelona at the second attempt.
“I think we all know about Barcelona. They are a great team and we all know about Lionel Messi, but don’t think it’s only about him, because he has great service from other great players like Xavi or Iniesta,” Djourou said.
“Also, I think that we have to be focused as a group, as eleven players ready to get behind the ball when we have to defend and move together – because I don’t think it’s all (the responsibility) of the defenders, but how we block the space to not give him (Messi) space to run into.”
Djourou admitted it was painful watching from the sidelines as Barca ran riot against the Gunners in last season’s quarter-final, with Messi scoring four goals in a 4-1 win at the Nou Camp.
“Of course, for me it was difficult because I was injured, but I have to say that they really gave us a good game over the two ties,” Djourou said.
“I think that it you look again we had a couple of chances when we played here at home. I think we could have scored before they did, but it’s going to be an exciting game and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Messi will no doubt be the focus of Arsenal’s defensive attentions, but Djourou said it was important not to ignore other potential threats.
“I have to say he’s just a great player. He’s a great exuberant player. He’s shown (his skill) all over the world, but I don’t think you have to be scared,” Djourou said.
“You have to be excited because it’s going to be a great game.”
“As I said before, it’s going to be a team performance to defend, because he’s shown that he’s very good in the one-against-one. But I think that as long as we have cover we can be hard to beat.”