Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic insists he has nothing to prove against English clubs as he prepares to put Arsenal to the sword in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Emirates on Wednesday.
Barcelona's Swedish forward is an admirer of Arsene Wenger's side and believes their clash will be a winner with the global TV audience. Arsenal's fluent style of play is often compared to Barcelona's, but Ibrahimovic has always struggled to find his best form against English clubs.
Ibrahimovic has scored 18 goals in 33 appearances for the Catalans this season, but the former Inter Milan, Juventus and Ajax star failed to make any impact when Milan crashed out of the Champions League to Liverpool and Manchester United in the previous two seasons.
However, he is adamant he has nothing to prove after winning six league titles in the last six seasons. "I think I haven't performed my best in games against English teams," Ibrahimovic admitted. "But the last time was with Inter against Manchester United and it is harder playing for Italian teams against English teams because Italian teams are more concerned with not conceding.
"Obviously Barcelona saw what they bought. I had five fantastic years in Italy and played in Holland before that," he went on. "The people who know football know the way I can play and I don't think I have to demonstrate that to anybody. I have six league titles in a row so I don't know how much more I have to prove after that. But I came to Spain to win more important titles and keep improving myself.
"When people criticise you, you hear it from somebody even if you don't read it, but the biggest criticism is from myself. I have had hard times but I'm playing well now," Ibrahimovic added. "Barcelona's mentality is always attack, attack. It is very important to score an away goal and if we can win that would be great. At home or away we always try to win. I think Barcelona are the favourites because we are the European champions. Wherever we go we are the favourites. We have a good team who can win whoever we play."
Results with flair
Barcelona have also proved to be capable of winning with style, while Arsenal's free-flowing style has been good to watch but has brought them little trophy success recently. "When I saw the draw I said immediately the whole world will see two fantastic matches. These two teams are the ones we like to watch," the Swede added. "But when you play attractive football it is important to win titles also. If you don't, people say these teams don't win by playing that way and maybe they should change their style.
"Personally I like the way Arsenal play because they are a very strong team. They have many young players and play attractive football and have a coach who has been there for a long time," he said.
Arsenal will have to face danger man Lionel Messi tomorrow night and Ibrahimovic hopes that the 22-year-old will remain on top of his game for the rest of his career. But he warned that the only obstacle to preventing Messi from becoming one of the world's greatest players is the Argentinian's own motivation.
"He is a fantastic player," he added. "But he is still young. He is 22 years old and has big future in front of him. I hope he can keep up the level where he is now. I hope he can continue and not lose his motivation. That is the biggest threat for him because he is only 22."