Arteta is relying on the youthful team’s enthusiasm in Porto.

Arteta is relying on the youthful team’s enthusiasm in Porto.

As we get ready for our first Champions League knockout match in seven years, Mikel Arteta believes that our players’ excitement more than makes up for their lack of experience.

For many of our younger players, this will be their first experience participating in a knockout match in Europe’s top club league. The team is now in Portugal getting ready for their first leg matchup against Porto in the round of 16. In contrast, our rivals, who have advanced to the round of 16 in six of the previous seven seasons.

Mikel believes that we have thoroughly enjoyed our first taste of the Champions League, even though we only scored 16 goals in the group stage—more than just Manchester City and Atletico Madrid combined. That, he thinks, has given his side more self-assurance that they are worthy members of the continent’s elite.

“It’s true we don’t have the experience,” he stated at his pre-match press conference. 95 percent of the players haven’t participated in this competition, that’s the reality. Although neither they nor I have been in the final 16, we possess an incredible amount of zeal and drive, as well as a strong desire to demonstrate our abilities and earn a spot in the tournament. We intend to play the game with that as our goal and our enthusiasm.

“Our right to be here has been earned. We haven’t been at this table for this kind of competition in seven years, and it has been fourteen years since we were able to advance to the following round. We are incredibly eager to take on this task and approach it head-on with complete confidence.

The winner of the two games will go to the quarterfinals; that would be our first appearance there since 2010, while Porto has been to the round of eight three times in that period. The final one occurred in 2021, under the tenure of current manager Sergio Conceicao, who has led the team for five seasons and overseen more games than any other manager in the club’s history.

In his first season in the dugout in this tournament, our leader is still gaining expertise from his wealth of European travels. Even while Mikel is working hard to learn as much as he can at this level to assist lead us as far as possible in this campaign, he believes that the important Premier League games we frequently play are equally important in these circumstances.

In response to a question concerning the insights he has gained from our six competition games thus far, he said, “I am learning, like every day in the job when you don’t have the experience.” In addition to utilizing everyone’s experiences, I aim to emphasize the importance of trusting your instincts.

“You must ensure that you have put in a lot of effort and preparation, that you have completed all the tasks necessary to make the proper choices, and that you have a good sense of how the team is feeling and what they feel is necessary to be in the best position to win a game. It is exactly the same as every other important game we have played in our national leagues.

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