Arsenal-Barca clash pits Fabregas against Messi
The plot will be about reunions and revenge when Barcelona start the next step toward its Champions League defense at Arsenal in the quarter-finals tomorrow.
The first leg will pit Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas against the club that nurtured him, as well as former Barcelona youth team friend, Lionel Messi; while Thierry Henry should finally come up against the Gunners, three years after departing.
Henry was in the Arsenal side that lost to Barcelona in the 2006 final - a 2-1 defeat which manager Arsene Wenger still harbours grievances because goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was sent off.
"This time I'm sure it will be different," Wenger said. "It's very frustrating for a manager not to win the title, but on the night we turned up with a decent performance and that's all you can do."
This week also sees a rerun of the 1999 final between Manchester United and Bayern Munich. The all-French clash between Lyon and Bordeaux and Inter Milan's meeting with CSKA Moscow complete the quarter-final lineup.
But the spotlight will be on north London, where Arsenal and Barcelona should produce an attack-oriented match.
Arsenal will have much to fear from Messi if the Argentinian reproduces the recent devastating form that has helped Barcelona - in coach Pep Guardiola's words - "steamroller" opponents.
"Leo is very special," said Henry, whose side will be without injured midfielder Andres Iniesta. "What Leo can do is difficult to find in any other player. The other day I had my head in my hands because I did not know how he does such things. I've received a load of messages all asking me if Leo is human. At times I ask myself that."
Messi missed the 2006 final through injury, denying him a chance to play against his former junior teammate Fabregas, who had been lured from the Barcelona youth team three years earlier at 16.
"As much as it's important not to speak too much about the individual players of Barcelona, it's important we don't put too much pressure on Fabregas ... and expect him to make the difference," Wenger said. "It will be unfair and not realistic."