Almunia relishing spicy Spurs clash

The Gunners will be looking to stay in the Premier League title

race after being handed a footballing lesson by a Lionel

Messi-inspired Barcelona in the Nou Camp. The battle-weary and

injury-hit Gunners must now lift themselves for the final five

matches of the domestic campaign having seen their European dreams

shattered after a 4-1 defeat in Spain. Arsenal keeper Almunia,

however, believes a short trip across north London to face their

arch-rivals at White Hart Lane could be just the sort of encounter

Arsene Wenger’s men need to keep things in perspective. “We are

down and disappointed, but we have to accept that Barcelona were

better than us in both legs and now we must focus on winning the

Premier League,” the Spanish goalkeeper said. “Tottenham are

playing for a Champions League place and it will be a very tough

game – no matter when we play or what we are fighting for, a derby

match is special. “Everybody has played at Tottenham’s stadium and

we won’t be surprised by the hostility. “We have played against

them many times, so we know their football and support.” In the

build-up to the Champions League quarter-final second leg, Wenger

had talked of the great strength of character his squad have shown

throughout a campaign which has seen them written off time and

again, only to come out fighting – and indeed Arsenal had taken a

shock lead at the Nou Camp through Nicklas Bendtner. However, while

eventually the absence of key men like captain Cesc Fabregas,

William Gallas, Andrey Arshavin and Alex Song proved too much to

overcome against the Catalans, Almunia is in no doubt the squad

have what it takes to raise themselves for one final push as

Arsenal aim to overhaul Chelsea and Manchester United with just

three points separating the challengers. “We are in a good place in

the Premier League and we have to show big character as we have

done already in big moments,” he said. “We have to believe we can

still win a trophy – if not, then we should go home and forget the

season. “At least we are in the league fighting for the title and

that is what we want. “We want to play the last few games where

anything is possible, otherwise we would be very disappointed and

bored. “It is a completely different game against Spurs and I think

we will be okay for that match.” Almunia had performed heroics in

the first leg to prevent Barcelona from being out of sight before

half-time, but had little chance to stop any of Messi’s well-taken

efforts at the Nou Camp. The 32-year-old accepts sometimes there is

just nothing you can do against a player of the Argentinian’s

quality. “After we scored, Messi woke up and had a great night,”

said the Arsenal keeper, who was beaten by an exquisite chip as

Messi completed his hat-trick just before the break. “He is used to

having these kind of games and when you have a player like this, it

is difficult to stop him. “You try to guess what he is going to do

and anticipate him, but his skills are great and he can do anything

at any moment.”