UCL: War Of Words, Mind Games And Pep Talk

Arsenal's Champions League clash was at boiling point here after Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola dismissed midfielder Jack Wilshere as a second-rate player who would not get in his first team. As Arsene Wenger prepares to take a massive gamble on the fitness of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas in a bid to eliminate 'the best team in the world', Guardiola launched an astonishing attack on the most exciting English player to emerge since Wayne Rooney.

Guardiola said he had a second team full of midfielders like 19-year-old Wilshere and it was only because Arsenal are not under the same pressure to win trophies as Barca that Wenger could afford to include the teenager in his line-up. Wilshere played a major part in Arsenal's sensational 2-1 first-leg victory against the Catalans but Guardiola said, "He can be a great player for Arsenal and England. But we have many types of player like him in the second team. He's lucky, as Arsenal have time. There is not the pressure to win titles as quickly as possible. We have second-team players like him."

Wenger responded by reminding Guardiola that he has not long been a manager. "I play Jack because he's good enough and I'm long enough in the job to know when a player deserves to play. In England you know very well that I'm under pressure,' said the Arsenal boss.

Barca were clearly agitated by the shock news that Van Persie has arrived here. Only last week Wenger said he feared the Dutchman's ankle injury would keep him out for a month. On Monday he suggested that, along with Theo Walcott and Alex Song, Van Persie would not be here for the last-16 clash.

Guardiola said, "Mr Wenger said Van Persie wasn't going to play and today he's with the team. Last year something similar happened, so maybe there will be a private flight for Walcott to come in."

But Wenger said, "He has made quick progress. It's no mind game - I'm not good at those. We will see tomorrow when the medical staff check him." The Gunners boss also has concerns over Fabregas, who has a hamstring injury. "Today is the final test to make sure we don't take a silly gamble. He will be 100 per cent or not play," added Wenger.

Related Articles:
Arsenal 2 Barca 1: Same Style, Different Class
The Test Of Barcelona Awaits Jack Wilshere

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