Baptista ready for Gunners test
By Francisco Acedo
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Julio Baptista has spoken to <i>skysports.com</i> about Real Madrid's game with Arsenal.
Julio Baptista has spoken to skysports.com about Real Madrid's game with Arsenal and the reasons why he spurned a move to England.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is a long-term admirer of the versatile Brazilian and when it became apparent he was to leave Sevilla in the summer, instructed his board to lodge a big-money bid.
At one point Arsenal looked front-runners to land the player's signature but a £13.8 million offer from Madrid was enough to tempt Sevilla into a sale and convince Baptista that the Spanish capital would be his next port of call.
Despite an indifferent debut campaign at the Bernabeu, both Baptista and Madrid have picked up of late and they host Arsenal in the type of free-scoring form that looks ominous for Wenger and his side.
Baptista is likely to receive a frosty reception when he plays the return leg at Highbury, but insists he has nothing to prove against the club who pursued him so vigorously in the summer.
''Against Arsenal I have nothing to prove,'' Baptista told skysports.com.
''During the summer I know they were interested in me but finally I accepted Real Madrid.
''Sincerely, it was impossible to reject their offer. For many reasons Real are superior to Arsenal.''
Whilst conceding that he expects a tough tie against the faltering Premiership giants, Baptista remains convinced Real will have more than enough to progress - of the opinion that the draw has definitely worked well for Real.
''We arrive for this game in an excellent mood,'' he continued. ''The game is equal because always in Europe the matches are very complicated.
''But we want to finish the tie in the Bernabeu. This Madrid team is able to score many goals in each match.
''The problem is to avoid conceding too. The semi-final against Zaragoza served as a lesson for the future (Madrid lost the first-leg 6-1).
''But the defeat has not damaged the team. The outcome of the draw was positive for us because this rival is less difficult than Chelsea or the Italians but we must fight from the first minute to the last.''
Arsenal are currently engulfed in an injury crisis that has led many to observe their chances of an upset are minimal, but Baptista insists Real must keep their concentration if they are to ensure a smooth progression.
''The English have problems with injury but these circumstances are not definitive,'' concluded Baptista.
''Last season Liverpool suffered suffered many absences and yet finished as champions. It is an example of how there does not exist an easy rival in Europe.
''Thierry Henry is the star for The Gunners but this season he is not playing at the top.
''This is excellent news for us but he is always a dangerous player.''