Arsene Wenger: Premier League title race remains 'quite open'
Arsene Wenger hopes a good performance against Barcelona will give Arsenal a boost for the rest of the season, and insisted that the Premier League title race is still "quite open."
Arsenal have to overturn a 2-0 deficit at the Camp Nou against a team who haven't lost since Oct. 3 and feature the best attack in football. But Wenger said his team can draw inspiration from their last group game against Olympiakos, when they needed to win by two goals to even advance to the knockout stage.
The won 3-0 in Greece after a hat trick by Olivier Giroud to earn the matchup with Barcelona.
"We made a miracle basically to come in there [to the last 16], and now we are in a position a little bit like ahead of Olympiakos. We have to deliver something special," Wenger told a news conference on Tuesday. "And I am convinced that for the rest of the season it would be a big boost for us to have a great game tomorrow."
Wenger is under increasing pressure following Sunday's FA Cup loss to Watford, which left Arsenal staring at the likelihood of a trophy-less season. But even though Wenger acknowledged that the Gunners' chances of staying alive in the Champions League are "very small," he is still optimistic about the team's league chances. That's despite Arsenal being 11 points behind leaders Leicester, albeit with a game in hand.
"We fight of course to win trophies, and at the moment we are not favourites to deliver that," he said. "But no matter how big of a chance we have I think the Premiership is quite open, much more than people think it is.
"And in the Champions League at the moment we have a very small chance. But let's give our best tomorrow, you never know."
Arsenal will have centre-back Laurent Koscielny back from a calf injury, which will be a big boost against the attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez. Arsenal tried to play defensively against Barca at home, which worked for 70 minutes until Messi put his team ahead. But Wenger said Arsenal will have to play their normal style of football in the return leg and focus on attacking.
"We have to attack and that suits us. We will do that knowing that the magicians of Barcelona will demand a good defensive performance from ourselves," he said.
And Wenger's Barcelona counterpart, Luis Enrique, is taking nothing for granted despite his team's seemingly comfortable lead. He promised that Barcelona will also play their normal attacking game, rather than dropping back to defend and play for a draw.
"It's a really good result from the first leg but it's not going to change our approach to the second leg or the way we prepare for the game. It's still an open tie," Luis Enrique said. "They are a very direct team and have the capacity to make things difficult for us. They have a very good aerial game, especially with [Olivier] Giroud and [Danny] Welbeck, and we will have to be careful if their second line moves forward."
Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was also worried about playmaker Mesut Ozil, heaping praise on his fellow German.
"In footballing terms, he's a player who can do things you can't really imagine. He's another player who is a bit like Lionel Messi. It's amazing. He can do fantastic things," the goalkeeper said. "Arsenal are capable of coming back from two goals down because they are one of the best teams in Europe. We have to play with no fear."
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him @MattiasKaren.