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Tue 4 Mar 2008 07:23 AM

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Wenger plays mind games ahead of AC Milan clash

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has argued pressure on AC Milan and Arsenal is the same.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said on Monday that Tuesday's Champions League second round, second leg tie between his team and AC Milan was evenly balanced.

The sides drew 0-0 in London two weeks ago but Wenger denied that result would heap any more pressure on one club or the other.

"I believe both sides will really want to win and will go for it. The pressure is at the same level for both," said the Frenchman.

"When players are desperate to play games like this the only thing you need to know is what qualities you need to win and I'm confident that my team has those qualities."

Arsenal have a good recent record against Italian sides, winning 5-1 at the San Siro against Inter Milan in 2003/04 and 3-1 at AS Roma the season before.

In their last five home-and-away clashes against Italians they have come out on top on each occasion.

But Wenger is adamant those matches will have no bearing on Tuesday's result.

"We don't prefer to play against Italian sides more than others," he said.

"We were maybe playing Italian sides when we had a very good team and that probably explains more than nationality why we did well."

"You often play Italian sides when you have a good team."

Although Milan can boast world player of the year Kaka, many people think it is Italy midfielder Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings in midfield that is the main threat, but Wenger has no special plans to shut him down.

"I believe that when you play big games you have many spaces to close down and players to keep out of the game," he said.

"More than keeping Pirlo quiet we must defend as a team and not mark man-to-man."

"That's the way that we play, we try to mark spaces well and we'll try to close Milan down rather than concentrate on any one player."

One of Wenger's crucial players in that role will be defensive midfielder Mathieu Flamini.Having been a bit part player during his first three years at the club, Flamini has earnt and held down a regular starting berth this season.

He's one of the players that sets the tempo that Arsenal will hope unsettles Milan.

"That's going to be very important because we're playing against a big team," said the Marseille-born player.

"We're going to have to be strong, play our game and score one more goal than them.

"We had a few occasions (in the first leg) so we know we can score. We have the quality to do it and I think we will."

Flamini also insisted the crowd and atmosphere will not be a detrimental factor to his team-mates.

"When you become a football player you dream about playing in this kind of game. We're going to enjoy it, it will be a pleasure and there's no fear that's for sure."

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