Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola is anticipating a stronger Arsenal than the one his side disposed of in last season’s Champions League.
Barca eliminated Arsenal at the quarter-final stage after an emphatic 4-1 second-leg victory iced a 6-3 aggregate win.
The duo meet earlier in the competition this time around, with the first leg of their the first elimination round tie on Wednesday at the Emirates.
Guardiola believes the Gunners are a much more composed outfit this season, and also praised opposition manager Arsene Wenger for the job he has done at the club.
“I have a lot of respect for Arsenal,” he said.
“I have an idea after seeing both games we played last season, but it’s just an idea. Many players have changed, (Robin) van Persie a lot.”
“I thought last season it would be a very good in both games and it will be the same this season.”
“The experience is a good detail for our lifes. They know better right now than (the) last night (last) season, because it’s very fresh the experience of last season.”
“But Mr Wenger has a lot of experience for these kind of games. A long time ago he became coach of Arsenal, and Arsenal every season, every year play in the Champions League. In Barcelona we admire his style, his way to play football.”
Guardiola was also drawn for comment on Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, who the Catalan club coveted prior to the season: “Cesc is an Arsenal player, and Wenger says always, in the past and in the present, I think in the future,” he said.
“Cesc will continue with Arsenal. Let him play there, and let Wenger play with his player. If one day Arsenal decide Cesc can go, we will be interested.”
Fabregas will lead the Gunners midfield against a star-studded Barca engine room featuring the likes of Spain team-mates Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
The latter believes Barca must be at their best to come away from the Emirates Stadium with a result.
“We will need to be a bit cagey and defend well when they have the ball. We will have to try to cut down our mistakes, be focused all the time and convert our chances,” he said.
“I think this match is going to be decided in our second match when we return to Barcelona. We are in the Champions League and this is where we find the best teams in the world.”
“I don’t think anyone is going to be thinking that tomorrow we will be able to win the tie. We need to play well tomorrow, take our chances and try to get a good result for the second leg. Hopefully we will manage to do that.”