Barcelona winger Pedro Rodriguez believes his side could find Arsenal a more dangerous threat to their UEFA Champions League hopes this time around than they were in last season's competition.
Barça, who meet Arsenal in the first leg of their last-16 tie at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday, ran out 6-3 aggregate winners when the two clubs clashed at the quarter-final stage just under 12 months ago. The Catalan giants were held 2-2 in London having led 2-0, but swept aside the Gunners 4-1 in the return meeting at the Nou Camp thanks to a four-goal salvo from Lionel Messi.
Pep Guardiola's side may have been too powerful for Arsenal on that occasion, but Pedro feels things could be tougher this time around for the 2006 and 2009 European champions. Highlighting the good form of Arsenal duo Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie, Pedro said on his club's website: "It will be a very difficult tie, different from last year as maybe they are more dangerous.
"They are in very good form. They have great players, especially up front. They have Cesc and (Robin) Van Persie, who is in very good form," he added. "They are very physical and strong, and their fans will help them a lot. It will be a nice game, open, and one where we hope to get a good result."
The Spanish FIFA World Cup™ winner added: "We're going out to win the game. Getting a decent result in the first leg is always good and we hope to do that and finish it off at home."
The spotlight during the tie is again likely to fall on Arsenal captain Fabregas, who was long been linked with a return to his former club Barça and was the subject of a big-money offer from the Spanish champions last summer.
Speaking about his Spain team-mate, Pedro said: "He has already said that he would like to play here, but this isn't the time to talk about this because now we have to face him and I'm sure he is going to be defending his team. Although hopefully one day he can play here, because he's a great player."
Arsenal head into Wednesday's clash on the back of a fine run in the English Premier League, with Saturday's 2-0 win over Wolves leaving them second in the standings, four points behind leaders Manchester United and four clear of third-placed Manchester City.
Barça are in even better shape though, and they had won a record-breaking 16 successive Primera Division matches prior to Saturday's 1-1 draw at Sporting Gijon. That result allowed second-placed Real Madrid to close the gap on Guardiola's league leaders to five points with their win over Espanyol, but Pedro is not overly concerned by that.
"We are calm, we know the lead can change, as there are lots of games left. We're still the leaders and we just have to keep playing as we are," he said. "We knew the league was still tough with a seven-point lead. It's still the same. We've both got difficult games right up to the end of the season. We must always maintain our level of play, we know there won't be any easy games."
Barça captain Carles Puyol and Jeffren Suarez both trained away from rest of their team-mates today as they recover from injuries, but otherwise Guardiola looks set to have a strong squad to take to London with him.