Guardiola expects 'fantastic' second leg
© AFP

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola is predicting a "fantastic" encounter when his side attempt to overturn their UEFA Champions League defeat by Arsenal in next month's last 16, second leg at Camp Nou. Barça, chasing a third Champions League title in six seasons, slumped to a 2-1 loss in the first leg at the Emirates Stadium, after seeing a first-half goal from David Villa cancelled out by late strikes from Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin.

That result has left everything to play for for both sides in the return meeting, and Guardiola believes that encounter will be one to remember. "The second leg is going to be a fantastic match for everyone," he said. "When two teams want to play attractive football it is always nice, and we will try and turn the tables at our place.

"The result is the thing I don't like but we need to congratulate Arsenal, who are an excellent team. These guys (Barça) have shown their quality before. Arsenal know that we will try and we know before the second leg that they are a good team."

Barcelona will hope for a similar outcome to last season's quarter-final, second leg between the two in Catalonia, when Lionel Messi scored all four goals in a 4-1 win that secured a 6-3 aggregate victory for the Spanish heavyweights. That win came after Barça had surrendered a 2-0 lead in the first leg in London to be held to a 2-2 draw, and defender Dani Alves admits he was left with similarly mixed feelings following yesterday's game.

"We are coming away with a bitter-sweet taste, the same as last year," he said. "The first half was very nice for the spectators, but for us it was annoying because we had our chances. We need to be super-positive. The tie isn't over.

"We're fine, there's no need to ring the alarm bells. This is Europe and winning games is hard. There is still the return leg and we hope to be a little better."

It was an unfair defeat because we were better than Arsenal. We played good football. But they were very effective in front of goal and we weren't. In Europe you end up paying for that.
Xavi on Barcelona's 2-1 loss at Arsenal

Reflecting on last night's match, Alves's team-mates felt the defeat was undeserved. Barcelona enjoyed a promising first half at the Emirates and could have led by more than Villa's 27th-minute strike at the interval, with Messi failing to make the most of a great chance early on.

Arsenal turned the tide after the break, though, and they drew level through Van Persie in the 78th minute before Arshavin side-footed in the Gunners' second goal five minutes later to give Arsene Wenger's men a narrow lead to take to Spain.

Barcelona midfielder Xavi felt his side deserved to get more out of the game, saying on his club's website: "It was an unfair defeat because we were better than Arsenal. There are 90 minutes left, at home, but it's a shame not to have got a different result.

"We played good football. But they were very effective in front of goal and we weren't. In Europe you end up paying for that. We are always optimistic. We are going to be playing at Camp Nou, with our fans. But the result is not what we wanted or one that reflected the game."

Goalkeeper Victor Valdes added: "We had the game under control, but they took advantage of their chances well. There's still the second leg and we have faith that things will turn out in our favour. It's possible in our stadium. We are confident that it will all work out for us."