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Crystal Palace
By ESPN Staff

Ljungberg relishes Arsenal underdog status

Freddie Ljungberg believes Arsenal have flourished in their role as European underdogs this season.

The Gunners came strong over the closing months of the campaign, losing just one of their final 11 Barclays Premiership matches as they finished fourth on the back of similar superb form in the Champions League.

Despite their confident mood, Arsenal will once again be up against it when they face Spanish giants Barcelona and the talents of Ronaldinho at the Stade de France in Paris on Wednesday night.

It is a scenario Arsene Wenger's men have faced before in the competition, when few gave them much chance of getting past Real Madrid and Serie A leaders Juventus.

But Ljungberg said: 'In the past we have been seen as one of the favourites in the competition, maybe this season people have looked at us like underdogs because we had not done so well in the Premiership.

'A lot of teams had tried to stop us playing, and did not play their own football. Perhaps this year they thought 'Ah, we will beat Arsenal and play our own game' - that suited us quite well with the way we pass and play.

'We are not maybe so happy with the league, because we want to fight for the title - that is how it is to play for Arsenal.

'But the way it has been in the Champions League has been great. We have played some really good football.

'In the Premiership where we struggled a bit was when we played really physical teams, maybe in Europe you are not allowed to play as physical in the games, so that has suited us a bit more.'

Arsenal's resurgence is perhaps even more remarkable given the amount of change in personnel over the course of the campaign, which began without skipper Patrick Vieira after his move to Juventus, and subsequently saw Wenger's selection options decreased by a spate of injuries.

At 29, Ljungberg is one of the elder statesmen of the current young Arsenal squad, which has seen the likes of Cesc Fabregas emerge as a top class performer.

The Swede added: 'It has been a season of transition.

'You have to help the young guys who come into the team, with how we want to play our passing game.

'So I tried to help and educate some of the players, which is something I have not had to do in the past, but it has all been good and now we are in the Champions League final.'