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Chamakh singles out Van Persie

Marouane Chamakh has lost his place in the Arsenal team to Robin Van Persie and he is tipping the Dutchman to torment Barcelona on Wednesday, as he claims his team-mate is "walking on water" at present.

• Arsenal v Barcelona preview

Van Persie made a slow start to the season on account of injury and former Bordeaux man Chamakh was the lead striker in the early months of the season. His form was initially sharp, but he has suffered a dip in recent weeks and is now playing understudy to Van Persie. It is a role he is content with, given the quality the former Feyenoord man is demonstrating at present.

"By the start of January I felt I had completely lost my edge," Chamakh said. "So I've been given some rest and Arsenal have been able to profit from Van Persie's form. He is walking on water right now.

"I am fully aware of my new role as substitute. I hope to play again but it could be in March rather than February. It is a blessing in disguise as the team is doing well and I can get some rest."

Arsene Wenger feels Arsenal are reaping the benefits of wrapping Van Persie in cotton wool earlier in the season and is tipping the Dutchman to cause Barcelona problems in the Champions League.

The forward bagged both goals in the win over Wolves at the weekend and heads to Barca on Wednesday brimming with confidence.

"Robin had not played for a while and it took him some time to come back into form," Wenger said. "We used him well, not rushing him back. Now he is at his best.

"Personally, I believe we go into the Barcelona game in better shape than last year and Robin is part of that."

Theo Walcott knows only too well that Arsenal will have to stop Lionel Messi if they are to come away from the first-leg with a positive result.

"We can do much better than last year - we cannot do any worse," said Walcott. "Messi was fantastic. We have to keep him quiet, he is a massive player. It taught us a lesson and hopefully we can learn.

"We now have bags of experience and are a better side. There is so much confidence."

Andres Iniesta said he was taking nothing for granted as Barcelona prepare to take on the team they knocked out in the quarter-finals last season.

He said: "We are not a machine. It won't be easy. This isn't a walk along the promenade for us. But Barcelona never take the field looking to be arrogant. That would be an enormous error.

"People speak about the matches last year but things are completely different. No two games are ever the same and we are aware Arsenal will be very motivated this time. That makes them even more dangerous. Barcelona aren't invincible and going to London is risky.

"We can win the first match but we face a battle to stop Cesc Fabregas and a team which will want to show its very best against us.

"Leo is enormous. What he can do surprises no one. It's easy to play with him and that's a big virtue. But the success of Barcelona is the team effort. We are top of La Liga, going well in the Champions League and believe in ourselves.

"The squad is functioning perfectly but it's a question of work, work and more work. Nothing has changed about me since the World Cup. I am happy, content but I continue to follow the same professional values. To play for Barca is a huge test each day and you have to follow up by playing at the highest intensity in all competitions."


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