Barcelona defender Marquez riding a Mexican wave

May 16, 2006

Barcelona centre-back Rafael Marquez will have the support of a whole nation behind him in the Champions League final in Paris.

Should Barca beat Arsenal, Marquez would become the first Mexican to win the European Cup, with the legendary Hugo Sanchez having failed to do so in an otherwise impressive 11-year spell in the Primera Liga with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

'There's a lot of expectation back home,' Marquez told PA Sport.

'People are excited and looking forward to this game and I hope I can give them joy by winning the title.

'If my team wins, I will no doubt dedicate the title to Mexico and to all my compatriots.'

Marquez, who was at Monaco for four years before joining Barcelona in 2004, is looking forward to returning to the Stade de France, where he won the French Coupe de la Ligue in 2003.

'I have very fond memories of that stadium,' he said.

'I am happy to go back and play there because it's one of the best stadiums I've played in.'

The Mexico captain is under no illusions as to the size of the task awaiting Barca when they play the Gunners.

And despite Arsenal's superb defensive record in this season's competition, Marquez is particularly fearful of an attack led by France maestro Thierry Henry.

'What I fear most about Arsenal is their sheer speed up front,' he said.

'They have great players and they have a lot of quality in attack.

'We've done a lot of good work defensively in the past few games and our aim is to continue in this manner in order to stop the likes of Henry.

'We also have a lot of attacking potential and I hope we are able to show it.

'Whatever happens, this is going to be a great final between two teams that fully deserve to be in Paris and that have played some great football throughout this competition.'

Marquez hopes the game will be Henry's last for Arsenal.

Henry has been linked with a move to the Nou Camp this summer and Marquez would be the first to welcome the Frenchman in the Blaugrana camp.

'Henry is a great professional and a fantastic player,' he said.

'I would love to have him next season as my team-mate.'