By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger believes that extending the knockout phase of the Champions League has made the competition more 'spectacular'.
Europe's premier club competition adopted a second group stage when the tournament expanded in 1999. But four seasons later Uefa jettisoned that format and returned to a single group stage with a straight knockout from the last 16 to the Final.
At the time Wenger felt that the second group stage was a potential stepping stone to a European League. But he believes that interest in the Champions League has been reignited since the current format was brought in.
"It looked like it [a European League] could happen when we had the second group stage but the television did not want to buy it anymore," said Wenger.
"In fairness I supported the idea of cancelling the second group stage. But, with a distance, I feel that for the spectacular side of the competition they [Uefa] have done well.
"Every game with the direct knockout now creates a big interest. We could sell now maybe 200,000 tickets because everybody wants to see this game [between Arsenal and Milan]. It has created big interest."
Wenger would advocate one more tweak to the Champions League format - he would abolish seedings for the knockout stage. The Frenchman explained why at his pre-match press conference.
"I like the idea of completely open competition after the group stage," he said. "You cannot have protection through the group stages and then again through the direct knockout. It would be a bit unfair to protect teams twice."

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Chris Harris 20 Feb 2008