Mikel Arteta has suggested the calibre of teams who could potentially drop into the Europa League from the Champions League this season means finishing top of our Europa League group may be crucial for our hopes of progressing deep into the competition.
The group winners will progress automatically to the last 16 of the competition, skipping February's play-off round which sees the teams finishing second in the groups facing off against the eight teams that finish third in the Champions League equivalents.
And this season, with the likes of Barcelona, Juventus and Atletico Madrid in danger of early elimination from the Champions League, the boss feels that more than ever finishing top will provide a huge boost to our chances of getting into the latter stages of an increasingly tough tournament to win.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, he said: “Last week we made the first step to qualify to the next round, and now we need to win tomorrow because we want to finish first.
“This competition is getting harder and harder and how it looks today and what the possibilities are, it looks like the next round will be extremely competitive. That’s why finishing first in the group and avoiding another two games is such an important thing for us.”
Arteta revealed that Marquinhos didn't board today’s flight to Eindhoven due to illness, but feels that he has to continue to field strong starting XIs in the competition to ensure we seal top spot against PSV Eindhoven on Thursday, where at least a draw will mean we reach the last 16 with a game to spare.
When pressed about his strong team selections, he laughed: “We don’t have that many players! We bring the players that we have and we have brought four kids with us so we cannot even make up the squad.
“We need to put 11 players out and they need to play - we cannot change those 11 players every game.”
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