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English Premiership

Barcelona going for the kill

LONDON, March 31 – Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola insists his side will try to wrap up their Champions League quarter-final clash against Arsenal before the first leg is over.With the decisive second leg still to come on home turf at the Nou Camp next week, many teams would opt for a cautious approach against a team with Arsenal’s commitment to attacking play.

But Guardiola knows Barca’s reputation for winning in style must be upheld whatever the potential risks and he will send out his team with the intention of taking complete control of the tie right from the start.

"They will be playing to their strengths and we will play to ours," Guardiola said on Tuesday. "We know scoring an away goal is very important so we will have an attacking intention and defend in an aggressive manner, in the nicest sense of the word.

"We will be playing against a team who are phenomenal. When they play this style of football it is something that people enjoy.

"They use the ball well even though they play in a very intense league. They are a daring team, they change positions and have dynamic players.

"But we will be very careful and play together. We are going to try to win the match."

If Guardiola is true to his attacking principles, it could be good news for Thierry Henry as he prepares for an emotional return to his former club.

Henry has struggled to hold down a regular place in Barca’s starting line-up this season, but Guardiola could be tempted to use him on the left wing in place of youngster Pedro Rodriguez.

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Guardiola acknowledged it will be a special occasion for Henry whether he starts or not.

"He is a player who still has Arsenal in his heart but I will have to see who plays on Wednesday," he said. "He is ready to play and I am sure he will do a good match because he is a very experienced player.

"He is returning home but the most important thing is to do a good job for the club."

Guardiola is confident that Barca can cope without midfield lynchpin Andres Iniesta, who is ruled out after suffering a thigh injury in the win at Real Mallorca over the weekend.

"Iniesta is a very important player. He can play in different positions, keeps the ball better than anyone else and is very smart. But we had Xavi injured before and still played well. That is part of football," Guardiola said.

Guardiola also insists Arsenal would still be a potent force even if Cesc Fabregas, the Gunners captain and former Barca youth product, is unable to recover from a knee injury in time to play.

Fabregas missed training on Tuesday as he tries to shake off the injury sustained in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Birmingham and Wenger plans to give him until the last minute to prove his fitness.

"If Mr Wenger says that Cesc might not play he will have his reasons. I believe him," he said.

"I know Cesc is a very good player. He is a very dynamic player and is always moving around. Since he was little he was always a good finisher.

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"But without him they still beat Porto 5-0. They have three or four dynamic players who play in the same position."

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