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EFE | 18/02/2013
Speaking to the official website of UEFA, European football's governing body, Spain and Arsenal star Santiago Cazorla has declared that Champions League last-16 rivals Bayern Munich stand alongside La Liga leaders Barcelona as favourites to win Europe's top club competition.
Discussing Arsenal's European opponents, Cazorla commented: "We've been drawn against a very difficult team in Bayern, one of the favourites for the competition together with Barcelona. But we'll try to play a good last 16, trying to play at a high level against Bayern, who have great players in their team."
The Spain international was under no illusions about the excellent form which the Bundesliga leaders are currently in, leaving Arsenal as underdogs to progress to the quarter-finals. However, he was swift to remember last season's Champions League final, a game in which the Germans lost to Chelsea despite being overwhelming favourites.
"That final was a further reminder that being the better team doesn't always mean that you'll win. It was a pretty spectacular performance by Bayern but Chelsea, using their own strengths, took the trophy. It was all about details. Didier Drogba scored in the last seconds, then Arjen Robben missed a penalty. Had he scored I'm almost sure Bayern would have won," explained the former Málaga man.
He continued: "Munich still won a lot of admirers after a remarkable campaign in which they eliminated Real Madrid. Along with Barcelona, Bayern must be one of the favourites to win this season."
When the 'Gunners' face Bayern, Cazorla will come up against Javi Martínez, one of his international team-mates. "I have a good relationship with him," he explained. "I know he's been very happy there in Germany. It'll be nice to face a friend from the national team, and it'll be a very nice encounter in the Champions League for both of us. Let's hope the better team wins, and that in this case it's us."
The man from Asturias, who arrived at the Emirates Stadium last summer, also recognised the influence that other Spanish players in the Premier League have had on him: "They have helped me a lot, and above all Cesc Fàbregas, who was at Arsenal for a long time. He was an icon here, and still is."
Cazorla went on: "Once I decided to sign for Arsenal, he [Fàbregas], Pepe Reina, Juan Mata and David Silva told me I would not have any regrets, and that I would enjoy this adventure, experiencing football in England, and I'm very happy. I think that they've been valuing me highly here, and the people respect you a lot more. The Arsenal fans are very, very good, and I'm very happy about the affection they've shown me every day."
The 28-year-old also expressed his enthusiasm for the role he plays in Arsène Wenger's team. "Here I'm a second striker," he said. "It's a position that puts me in contact with the ball a lot, but gives me the freedom I need to go seeking the right space. Honestly, it's perfect for me - just the way I like playing."