• Champions League

Messi fears 'dangerous' Walcott

ESPN staff
February 15, 2011
Theo Walcott has been on fire for Arsenal this season © Getty Images

Lionel Messi has singled out Theo Walcott as the player Barcelona fear most heading into Wednesday's mouth-watering Champions League clash with Arsenal, the Argentine lauding the pacy winger as "one of the most dangerous players I have ever played against".

The Gunners were dumped out of last year's competition by the Spanish giants - after securing a 2-2 home draw they went on to lose the second leg of their quarter-final tie 4-1 at Camp Nou.

Walcott was inspirational in the opening fixture at the Emirates Stadium, coming off the bench to help his side claw their way back from 2-0 down to claim a share of the spoils.

Trailing 2-0, Arsenal's Champions League quest appeared all but over, before Walcott entered the fray as a second-half substitute to terrorise the Barcelona defence. Messi remembers the match well and openly admits Barcelona were reeling as Walcott took centre stage.

"I can only speak from experience but he was one of the most dangerous players I have ever played against," he told the Daily Telegraph. "Barcelona players are not scared easily but I can tell you that when we played Arsenal last season he truly worried us.

"When we were playing Arsenal at the Emirates we were so in control of the game at 2-0, with all respect Arsenal were not even in the game. Then Theo came on and changed the game. He pretty much single-handedly salvaged a draw that night."

While Walcott was very much on the periphery last season, he has shown rapid improvement this term and is now flourishing as a key member of Arsene Wenger's starting XI.

And the 21-year-old, who has scored 10 goals this campaign, is adamant Arsenal pose a far greater threat to Barcelona in Wednesday's last-16 first-leg encounter.

"We are better without any doubt," he said. "They taught us a lesson but the lesson has been learnt. We have bags of experience now. We have just got to take the way we have been playing in the Premier League into the Champions league.

"I believe that we can do much better than last season; we can't do any worse to be honest. There is so much confidence in the team. We know what to do."

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