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Easier preparing for Barca than Hull, says Arsenal's Wenger

Football Soccer - Arsenal Training - Arsenal Training Ground - 22/2/16 Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, assistant manager Steve Bould and first team coach Neil Banfield during training Action Images via Reuters / Tony O'Brien Livepic
Football Soccer - Arsenal Training - Arsenal Training Ground - 22/2/16Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, assistant manager Steve Bould and first team coach Neil Banfield during trainingAction Images via Reuters / Tony O'BrienLivepic

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal face a huge task trying to blunt Barcelona's famed strikeforce in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday but manager Arsene Wenger says preparing his team is easier than for last weekend's FA Cup tie with Hull City.

Barcelona, unbeaten in 32 matches, are hot favourites for the first leg at the Emirates Stadium where Arsenal laboured to a 0-0 draw with second tier Hull City at the weekend.

Wenger, however, thinks European champions Barca's formidable reputation actually makes his job easier.

"Honestly the difficulty of the task is completely different, but it's more difficult to prepare against Hull than Barcelona because against Barca every one is focused naturally," the Frenchman told a news conference on Monday.

"Barcelona are super favourites for this game and tomorrow everyone is already convinced that we have to be totally focused as a whole squad."

Luis Enrique's Barca side are unbeaten since October and in Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, Spain's top scorer this season, they boast the most formidable attacking trio in the world.

They have scored 58 goals between them in La Liga this season to help Barca move eight points clear of their rivals.

"The world is not perfect and no team is perfect, but they are not far from it at Barcelona," Wenger said with a grin.

Arsenal have beaten the Catalans only once in seven Champions League meetings, in 2011 when they overcame Barca 2-1 at the same stage before being swept away in the return leg with Messi on target twice in a 3-1 victory.

Wenger says they have improved under Luis Enrique, who has introduced a slightly more direct style from the possesion-based 'tiki taka' style which was their trademark under Pep Guardiola.

"Certainly offensively they have top, top strikers and it looks like they have a little bit less possession," Wenger said.

"But they have a team that can score at any moment, even when they are dominated. They are quicker in transition."

Arsenal are still without the injured Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla, but welcome back Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey who were rested at the weekend.

Petr Cech will line up in goal, hoping to continue his proud record of never having conceded a goal to Messi.

"I hope that Petr gives him a little complex tomorrow!," Wenger said.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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