By Richard Clarke

Arsenal must have Champions League football this season says Robin van Persie.

Arsène Wenger’s side face Twente in a qualification tie first leg on Wednesday. It is the third year in succession that Arsenal been forced to play preliminary games in order to make the main competition. On both occasions they have gained a pivotal 2-0 lead after the first leg away from home and have subsequently gone through in some comfort.

However Van Persie is taking nothing for grant on Wednesday in a tie he believes will be crucial for his side’s season.

“Arsenal always want to play in the Champions League and I think Arsenal need to play in the Champions League,” said the 24-year-old. “If you have good players and a big stadium then I think you need to play in the highest league in Europe.

“But this is football. If you don’t win these two games then you won’t qualify and you’ll play in the UEFA Cup.”

Twente are used to creating shocks. They reached this stage of the Champions League after beating Ajax in an Eredivisie play-off at the end of last term. Van Persie has studied them and, though they have changed key players and their manager since last season,  he believes they’ll be highly competitive.

“I know them quite well as I have Dutch satellite TV at home,” said the striker. “They had a great year last year but they lost two of their best players. Karim El Ahmadi went to Feyenoord and Orlando Engelaar went to Schalke. They were the playmakers. But they got one good player back from Vitesse – Theo Janssen – so they are still in good shape with a good team.

“To be honest it was quite a big shock [when they won the play-off] because in Holland everyone expected Ajax to win. But in the end Twente played better than them. They had two good games – one I think they won 4-2 - so yes it was a shock but these things happen in football.”

Just not on Wednesday night, we hope.

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12 Aug 2008