Upbeat Arshavin dreaming of Barca switch

ANDREI ARSHAVIN has dreams of moving to Spain — after knocking them out of Euro 2008 — and has warned Russia’s semi-final opponents he is yet to peak at the tournament.

The 27-year-old was suspended for the first two matches of the tournament but his impact against Sweden and Holland has alerted Europe’s top clubs, with Zenit St Petersburg braced for his departure this summer.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is an admirer of the playmaker, but Barcelona is his preferred destination.

“I have supported Barcelona all my life,” said Arshavin, who will face Spain at Vienna’s Ernst Happel Stadium tonight.

“Barcelona are my dream. I never thought I would have a genuine chance to playfor the club.

“Let’s see how the situation unfolds. For now I can’t say anything for sure. At the moment I’m a player of team Russia and I’m only thinking about doing well in the semi-finals.”

Arshavin has appeared a spiky character since returning from suspension, and although he inherited the captaincy from Yegor Titov, he was not given the armband against Sweden.

Guus Hiddink was known to be unhappy with his playmaker getting sent off in their final qualifier, against Andorra, for kicking out — and there looked to be tension between coach and player when he received his man-of-the-match award on his return. “I came here hoping I’d get a chance to play at such a big tournament,” he explained. “I’ve never been to an event like this before.

“We had some very tough training sessions and it was difficult for me to be training a lot knowing I wouldn’t be playing.

“It was an unusual feeling. Even so I’m happy Guus Hiddink brought me here despite the ban and let me become a part of the tournament.”

Arshavin capped his performance that night with a goal, as he did against the Dutch in the quarter-finals, but he insists there is more to come.

“I’ve played better games, so many times,” he insisted. “I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary. Sometimes I score, sometimes I provide a pass.

“When you do it in the World Cup or European Championship, in front of a lot of people, there are bigger repercussions, so to speak.”

Marcos Senna, Spain’s defensive midfielder, is seen as the key to keeping Arshavin quiet for the semi-final, given the Russian makes his runs from deep while playing off Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Pavlyuchenko is another who has benefited from Hiddink’s style of coaching, effectively being told to lose weight or risk getting left out of the squad, despite his form in qualifying that saw him net twice against England.

When Spain defeated them in their opening match of the finals, Hiddink confronted his players and demanded a response.

Three wins later and they are on the brink of the final, and Hiddink feels it will different this time around against Luis Aragones’ Spanish side.

“If we play as we did before we don’t even have to start this game. We may as well hand over our wallets to Spain,” Hiddink said. “We have tried, of course, to improve. The team has learned a lot in a very short time.”

However Russian duo Denis Kolodin and Dmitri Torbinski are suspended for tonight’s clash.


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