Cesc: Barca return nothing special
Cesc Fabregas insists Arsenal's Champions League fixture against Barcelona on Tuesday does not hold any extra significance for him, despite his close association with the Catalan club.
The last-16, second-leg tie is the first opportunity Fabregas has had to return to his former club with Arsenal, as a broken leg prevented him from featuring at Camp Nou in the quarter-finals last season. Though he has struggled with a hamstring injury of late, Fabregas has declared himself fit for Tuesday's tie.
The Arsenal captain is understandably the centre of the attention given the fact that the Barca academy graduate told Arsene Wenger he wanted to join his former side in the summer, only to see two offers rejected by the Gunners.
However, Fabregas says his approach to the fixture has not been affected by his history with the Spanish champions.
"I am not here to shut up comments or to beat anyone specifically," Fabregas said. "I am just here to win for Arsenal Football Club. Sometimes I don't understand these reactions or comments about people saying I want this or I feel this. I want to win for Arsenal and that's it.
"I don't put anything extra in my head because I play against Barcelona in the Nou Camp. It is a special game for everyone because it is a special stadium and we play against a good team. That's it. It's one more game that we want to win.
"I don't like people talking about what I feel. Only I know what I feel. I want to do my best for Arsenal, and that is it. I just want to do well tomorrow, to keep improving myself and for the team. That is all."
However, Fabregas, who left Barca to join Arsenal at the age of 16 in 2003, did concede that the thought of missing out on another game at Camp Nou had worried him after suffering his hamstring injury.
"Over the last few weeks I have suffered a bit because I was a bit upset because I did not know whether I was going to make it, but I have great feelings now," he said. "Sometimes you cannot take a big gamble to come back quicker. I have a lot of experience in that so I prefer to be safe."
Fabregas has identified Lionel Messi as the main threat to the 2-1 lead that Arsenal enjoy from the first leg. His former team-mate at La Masia scored four goals in the corresponding fixture last season as the Gunners exited the competition and is the reigning FIFA Ballon d'Or winner.
"Well, we know you can't give Lionel Messi space, he scored four goals last season," Fabregas said. "We showed what we had to do in the first leg, but we can't forget we have to play our own game. We are Arsenal and we have to make ourselves be respected.
"I think there were key moments last season, like when they scored so soon after us. If they hadn't they might have got nervous. Leo Messi made the difference last season. We have to be ready for everything."