Gunners earn Guardiola's approval
© AFP

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola maintains Arsenal have what it takes to win the UEFA Champions League sooner or later.

Guardiola collected European football's top prize in his first season in charge two years ago, and will be out to overturn a 2-1 deficit at the Nou Camp tonight to reach the quarter-finals. Arsenal may have suffered the bitter disappointment of defeat in the League Cup final at Wembley to Birmingham, but they remain very much in the hunt to end their six-season trophy drought.

Manchester United's defeat at Liverpool leaves the Gunners just three points off the top of the Premier League, and with a game in hand. They head to Old Trafford this weekend looking to secure a place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.

Guardiola has been impressed by the Gunners' durability. "I keep hearing about the fragility in the minds of the Arsenal players, but I do not agree," the Barcelona boss said. "They are competing with Manchester United for the Premier League, reached the final of the League Cup and a few seasons ago were in the final of the Champions League. Arsenal are always in the top, when you compete every season at the top, it is because they are quality.

Yes, they (Arsenal) lack something, but they are a young team. When they win the first time, they will change the mentality, they will realise they are good.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola

"Sometimes they sell players, but Arsenal always keep the same level. Many teams arrive at the top for one year, but then are finished. Arsenal are there every season. For many years they have kept up there, and that is the real merit. Yes, they lack something, but they are a young team. When they win the first time, they will change the mentality, they will realise they are good."

Arsenal will hand a fitness test to Netherlands striker Robin van Persie ahead of tonight's showdown, after he made a swift recovery from a knee problem. Guardiola would welcome all of the Gunners stars in the starting XI, with the likes of midfielder Alex Song and England winger Theo Walcott left behind because of injury.

"I would like Song to play, maybe there could be a private flight for Walcott to come in at the last minute - you never know," said Guardiola. "I want all the great players to play, everyone against everyone and see a great show. "I hope they are all in the team - Van Persie, [Samir] Nasri, Cesc, because I would like to play the best possible Arsenal."

The Barcelona boss, who himself has been plagued by a back complaint which needed hospital treatment, continued: "If Van Persie plays, then no problem. It is good for the team and good for everyone. If he cannot, then Arsenal have a squad with players at a great level.

"Arsenal have many alternatives, are very dynamic and can play in different positions, their counter-attack is great. We will try to prevent that. This is always a special game in the Champions League and it is a magnificent challenge."

Barcelona will be unable to field either of their first-choice central defenders tonight as captain Carles Puyol has failed to recover from a knee injury while Gerard Pique is suspended. Midfielder Sergio Busquets is set to drop back to help out in defence, meaning former Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano should get a rare start.