Cesc Fabregas believes Arsenal can have no better stage on which to prove their potential than against Barcelona in the Nou Camp tonight.
The Spain 2010 FIFA World Cup™ winner has shrugged off a hamstring problem to return to the team he left as a teenager for the first time in a competitive club fixture, with a place in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League at stake. While it is sure to be an emotional evening for the Gunners skipper, the 23-year-old insists the glamour tie provides the perfect opportunity for Arsene Wenger's youngsters to show they have what it takes to deliver at the highest level.
"We have played so many games where we shown we have character, we have potential and that we are the present," said Fabregas, who was sidelined for the shock League Cup final defeat to Birmingham at Wembley. "We want to win things for the club and this is obviously a fantastic exam for all of us a team and individually. We want to show how good we are and it's a fantastic opportunity for the team to have a great game."
Arsenal will take a slender 2-1 lead into tonight's clash following their stirring fightback at the Emirates Stadium and could be boosted by the return of leading scorer Robin van Persie who will have a late fitness test on his injured knee.
Despite the personal significance of the occasion for Fabregas, who endured another summer of transfer speculation over a £30million move back to the Catalan club, the Gunners skipper insists victory is the only thing on his mind. "I am not here to shut up comments or to beat anyone specifically or whatever. I am just here to win for Arsenal Football Club," Fabregas said. "Sometimes I don't understand these reactions or comments about people saying I want this or I feel this. I want to win for Arsenal and that's it. That's easy for me.
"I don't put anything extra in my head because I play against Barcelona in the Nou Camp. It is a special game for everyone because it is a special stadium and we play against a good team and that's it. It's one more game that we want to win. We want to do well for the club and we want to get through to the next stage of the Champions League. There is nothing more to it than that - we just want to go through and get to the quarter-final."
Fabregas missed last season's Champions League quarter-final encounter at the Nou Camp after suffering a broken leg in the first tie in London. The Gunners skipper knows full well his side cannot allow Lionel Messi to run riot again, the Argentinian having netted all four of Barcelona's goals in a masterclass last April.
"We know that you cannot give space to Messi because he scored four goals and was outstanding," Fabregas said. "For the rest, we showed what we have to do in the first leg a couple of weeks ago and we played some good football. We cannot always be focused on thinking what are they going to do or just defending - we are Arsenal and we have to make ourselves respected as well."