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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says his side must strike the right balance between attack and defence if they are to prevail in the Champions League last 16 tie against reigning champions Barcelona. The Gunners host the Catalans at The Emirates Stadium on Tuesday [23 February] hoping to stay alive for the second leg in three weeks' time.
Wenger's side have been dumped out of the competition at the round of 16 stage in each of the last five seasons. The previous four years the north Londoners have left themselves with too much to do heading into the second leg having conceded significant leads in the first game after adopting an over-attacking approach.
Up against the trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, Arsenal would be forgiven for wanting to fight fire with fire and attempt to outscore Barca. But Wenger wants his side to show more patience when faced with the defending champions and La Liga leaders to ensure they remain in contention to qualify come the second leg.
"We have a good opportunity to show that we have learned," the Arsenal boss told reporters at a press conference. "We give ourselves a difficult task every time after the first leg and maybe because we were too keen to make the difference in the first game.
"We have to find the right balance between being audacious that is what you need to be against Barcelona, but also strong defensively as a unit and not put ourselves in front of a very difficult task in the second leg. We are better equipped in that we have experience and the players play for a while together now and I believe all the players I have are intelligent so we have a good opportunity to show that we have learned.
"I know that individually they have exceptional talent but the only way we can do it is by being resilient, having great solidarity and intelligent as well. Let's not forget we have a good defensive record and we have a great goalkeeper as well."
Arsenal's squad came through unscathed from the FA Cup fifth round draw with Hull City and are without just four players for the first leg. Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla are both out with long-term injuries but Mikel Arteta and defender Gabriel are unavailable despite training ahead of the game. "Well of course Wilshere, Cazorla and Gabriel are all out," Wenger explained. "Arteta as well. Everyone else is available."