Aston Villa manager David O'Leary has warned his players not to go to Highbury tomorrow expecting any sub-standard 'after the Lord Mayor's show' perform-ance from European Cupchasing Arsenal.
Former Arsenal favourite O'Leary was at Highbury on Tuesday night watching the breath-taking performance of Arsene Wenger's Gunners as they put one foot in the Champions League semi-finals with a 2-0 win over Juventus.
But the Villa boss reckons his players can put aside any hopes that Arsenal will take their foot off the gas.
"One thing I know about the club is that they [feel they] have to keep winning," said O'Leary. "They're peaking at the right time. I've seen them pick up over the last six weeks or so and I definitely think they'll get to the final and that it's between them and Barcelona.
"But, whatever happens, they know they have to be in the Champions League next year. And, if they can't win, then they want to get that fourth spot. Manchester United and Liverpool are in their own chase for second and the heat is on for fourth between Arsenal and Tottenham. They know they're in a battle with Spurs and there's no margin for error.
"And that's why we know we've got to be right on our game to get anything.
"If we get a result it will be brilliant but we've all got to perform to our maximum. There's the chance that Arsene might change a few but look at the ones he can bring in. They might go with Emmanuel Adebayor, the young fellah they got in from Monaco for #9 million, or van Persie or Bergkamp.
"But there's only one king down there and that's Thierry Henry. If I was given the chance to sign just one player, he'd still be the one.
"I've never seen anything as quick in my life - just frightening, pure, awesome, natural pace.
"He's as good as it gets. He can pick a ball up from anywhere and score a Roy of the Rovers goal. On his day he's unplayable."
Given the size of the job facing Villa, O'Leary would have preferred not to go into battle without his skipper Olof Mellberg.
But, having struggled with a tight hamstring, a flu bug which has confined him to bed has now finally put paid to the Swedish centre-half's chances of playing. He misses a second successive game.
"He'd have been touch and go anyway with his hamstring," said O'Leary. "But he's definitely out now.
"But, in Liam Ridgewell and Aaron Hughes, I know I've got two lads who will give me everything.
"Aaron might not be over-joyed playing there. He prefers it at right-back as he's quick down the sides. And, although he plays centre-half for his country, it can be another game at international level. It's a different story in the Premiership when you're up against a James Beattie or a Dean Ashton. But the bonus, as far as this game is concerned, is that Arsenal are not a lumping team. And he's a good pro who I know won't let me down. He's played with Liam twice and we haven't conceded a goal. And I really felt Liam came of age last week. He became a man.
"Results might not be everything we want right now, but he went out there with a great determination to show that there's a great spirit in the dressing room, that 'I don't need anybody looking after me'. He played like a man in difficult circumstances, he stood up to be counted and I was very proud."
Jlloyd Samuel is also back in contention for a place, Patrik Berger is returning to training next week and James Milner is on the mend, but O'Leary is still anxiously awaiting news on the fitness of top scorer Milan Baros.
"We've got a decision to make on Milan after training," said the manager, who is contemplating a place on the bench for the Czech player.
"He's trained but he's been out since the Manchester City game and not done anything and looks tired and a bit unfit.
"He's still got a little niggle with his ankle and we'll have to see if there's any reaction tomorrow.
"Jlloyd trained and he'll be fine, although most probably it will be the same team. Uli De la Cruz was solid at right-back last week.
"We'll have Patrik Berger returning to training on Monday after his Achilles problem. And James Milner will have a scan on Monday. He's improving and we'll have a really good idea next week as to when we'll have him back."