Champions League – Fabregas: No fear of San Siro
Cesc Fabregas maintains Arsenal are not “scared” at the prospect of taking on Champions League holders AC Milan at the San Siro on Tuesday night – and backed Arsene Wenger’s young Gunners to play their way into the quarter-finals.
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Fabregas felt that result – dug out when everything seemed to be going against the Gunners following a difficult week in the wake of Eduardo’s horrific leg injury at Birmingham – showed this squad have the mental strength needed to mount a sustained assault for the game’s biggest honours.
However, for the 2006 Champions League runners-up to progress into the last eight of this season’s elite European club competition, Arsenal will have to do it the hard way.
Standing in their path are the current holders, who secured a goalless draw at Emirates Stadium two weeks ago and possess a star-studded squad capable of taking any team apart – as Manchester United found out when they ventured to Italy last year.
Wenger has pledged not to give Brazilian playmaker Kaka any special treatment, other than to cut off the supply chain to the gifted 25-year-old as the Gunners did a fortnight ago in north London when the World Player of the Year had only a limited impact.
Fabregas, however, insists there will be sense of Arsenal being over-awed at their task.
Indeed, but for the width of a crossbar in stoppage-time when Emmanuel Adebayor failed to convert a close-range header at Emirates Stadium, the Gunners could have been defending a slender lead tomorrow night.
“We are young, but we are not scared of anything and we will play our game,” declared 20-year-old Spaniard Fabregas.
“You have always seen if we are winning or losing, we will never go to defend.
“We will always want to attack, because it is the way we like to play and enjoy playing.
“You take the risk that sometimes you will draw or lose, of course, but we enjoy it – and any football fans should be proud there are teams like Arsenal who want to play football always, not to defend.”
Fabregas added: “We are playing against Milan, a big team with a lot of medals in their pockets.
“It will be interesting to see how we respond to that.
“We will play at the San Siro for the first time, and think we can do well if we play 100% and maybe we can cause a surprise.”
Arsenal have certainly been through a steep learning curve this season, with Fabregas one of several players taking up the mantle following the departure of long-time talisman Thierry Henry to Barcelona during the summer.
Nevertheless, many still consider the Gunners outsiders for the Premier League title – with United having swiftly clawed back what was a five-point deficit to just one.
Fabregas believes the past six months have left Wenger’s young squad in a strong position for the run-in.
However, the midfielder knows all that hard work will be for nothing should performances levels not be maintained right through until May.
Fabregas declared: “We have always said that the most important part of the season is coming now – but if you do not do well at the beginning, there is no important part at the end.
“That is why we play football, to have these games and always be at the top.
“Now, we want to be champions and have to keep going.”
Fabregas, schooled at the Nou Camp before moving to Highbury as a teenager, believes Kaka – who has shaken off a knee injury to be fit for tomorrow’s game – deserves his accolade as one of the globe’s most naturally talented players.
However, the Spain midfielder accepts Manchester United also have a man in fine form, namely marauding winger Cristiano Ronaldo.
Fabregas observed: “Maybe right now, Cristiano is playing very, very well. But over the last two seasons, I think Kaka has been the best without any doubt.”