Arsenal are now 12/1 in the Champions League betting to win the tournament this season after overcoming a major psychological hurdle with victory in the opening leg of their last-16 clash with Barcelona.
Neither Arsenal nor Arsene Wenger had ever beaten Barcelona previously and the cards were stacked against them as the Gunners were taught a footballing lesson by the Catalan giants in both legs of their quarter-final showdown in the competition last season.
Barcelona eventually went on to progress 6-3 from that tie, but a year later Arsenal seemed to have taken a major leap forward.
Alongside having some of their star names available who missed at least some of the tie last year, including Robin van Persie, Alex Song and Cesc Fabregas, the squad is a year older, which makes them physically stronger and more experienced.
And these are factors that Wenger will take confidence from ahead of the second leg, although he concedes that Barcelona are still favourites to overturn their 2-1 deficit and progress through the tie.
Wenger said: “We were not only strong on the physical side but on the mental side; we kept resilient. The result gives us a chance to go to Barcelona with belief. It is a special lift for my team.
“We know it will be a very difficult game [in Spain] but we will prepare well. We will be highly focused and we go to win our game. We will go for it.”
The result has also altered Barcelona’s Champions League odds to 2/1, but they will not be too concerned as they have won all of their last seven home games in the Champions League and a repeat of any of these scorelines would be enough to send them through.
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