Van Persie: Bring on Barcelona or Madrid in the knockout stages!
Published 23:06 08/12/10 By Neil McLeman
Robin van Persie roared: 'Bring on the Spanish big boys' after Arsenal reached the knockout stages of the Champions League last night.
Goals from the Dutchman, Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri gave the Gunners a nervy win over Partizan Belgrade.
But the Gunners still finished second in Group H - the only English team not to win their section this season.
And in the last 16 draw next week, Arsenal will now be paired with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Schalke 04.
Arsene Wenger's side lost in the quarter-finals to Barcelona last season when Lionel Messi scored four goals at the Nou Camp.
But after his first goal of the season, stand-in skipper Van Persie wants a chance for revenge - or a meeting with Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid.
"As a football fan, I would love to be involved in a game against Real Madrid or Barcelona but we will have to see what the draw will bring," he said.
"We have to believe we can win it now. Everything starts with belief. If we don't believe, we should stop playing football."
Wenger added: "Let's be realistic, Barcelona are the super favourite at the moment but we take what we get and if it is Barcelona it is Barcelona."
But the Frenchman admitted he had been "worried" his team faced elimination when Brazilian striker Cleo equalised for the Serbian champions after 52 minutes.
And he said his Premier League leaders would now have to improve after reaching the knockout stages for the 11th consecutive year.
"It was bit of a low key game and it was a bit nervous as well," he said.
"Overall we are in a strong potion in the league, we are in the semi-final of the League Cup and we start the FA Cup in January. There are plenty of exciting challenges in front of us but there is room for improvement and I am confident we will.
"Now in the last 16 it becomes a different competition. It becomes a cup competition and that means for 180 minutes you have to be at your top level. We have qualified out of the group stage and let's go further now."
Bacary Sagna was given a straight red card after 85 minutes.
"It was very harsh," Wenger claimed.