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Part 1: Olivier Giroud: “We are finally able to beat our direct rivals.”

Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud has given an extensive interview to L’Équipe this morning ahead of his side’s huge clash with Barcelona this evening. Part 1- Extracts.

You were on the brink of elimination after two defeats in the first two matches of the group stage. After all your efforts, is it not discouraging to be drawn with Barcelona?

We are sort of the black cats of the Champions League, no? We draw the best team in the world at the moment, the one that nobody wanted to face. I have seen a mock-up of the head of the manager (Arsène Wenger) on the body of Balotelli whose t-shirt reads: “Why always me?”

How do you beat this team?

It is the first time that I will be facing Barca, I am super excited about the challenge. The two teams have similar football philosophies, ball possession, doubling of passes, even if we expect to suffer a lot and to run a lot. Above all, we must not sabotage the 1st leg like we have had the bad habit of doing in previous years in the first rounds of the knockout stages.

What do you think of the MSN trio?

They have a marvellous understanding with each other, they compliment each other greatly and find each other with their eyes closed. It is impressive, it means that they can thwart any defence. They are maybe those who do it the best in the whole world.

When you consider the shortcomings of some of your competitors, notably Chelsea, do you no think that it is this season or never to become the league champions?

The league is spicy, so strange, that the title will be attained with fewer points than in previous years. This is good for us because we have lost points stupidly. But we have never been so close to the first position at this time of the year, so, we really believe in ourselves. Why not us?

Have Leicester become your main rivals?

Honestly, what they are doing, it is very strong. It reminds me of our season with Montpellier, when we finished as champions. They only have the league left to play. They are superbly moulded and have a certain unconcerned attitude. Just now, Ranieri has given them an entire week of holidays during the middle of the season. Can you imagine that?

I am also wary of the dynamism of Tottenham. But I think that our main rival is ourselves, even if you might think that that answer is corny or stupid.

You have often been criticised in previous years for your inability to win trophies. The cup win, in 2014, nine years after Arsenal’s last title, did that change the perception of the club in England?

We became a team that won again, and there were also two Community Shields. Even if they are only one match each, we beat City and Chelsea. Which is a change compared with before, we are finally able to beat our direct rivals: we beat Leicester twice, City once, United too, and we did not lose points to Tottenham.

The club is keeping its best players too. When you lose Fabregas, Song, Van Persie and others, it becomes difficult. But today, Mesut has been here for three years, Sanchez is in his second year etc.

Part 2 to follow.

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