Arsene Wenger admits Barcelona’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Roma should act as a warning to his Arsenal players in Russia.
The Gunners take on CSKA Moscow in the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday, holding a commanding 4-1 lead from the first leg at the Emirates Stadium last week.
While that result leaves Arsenal strong favourites to reach the final four, Barcelona surrendered the same advantage as they lost 3-0 at Roma to crash out of the Champions League on away goals.
Veteran CSKA defender Aleksei Berezutski admitted the hosts would need a “miracle” to replicate Roma’s heroics, but Wenger still wants his players to head into the match with their minds on the job at hand.
“It can happen in the game, that is why we love football, it is unpredictable,” he said.
“In every game, everything is questioned again. It is new every time. We are in a position where I don’t think we are under threat of complacency, it is an important target for us to go as far as possible.
“(Roma’s comeback) may be a warning for us but let us not go overboard as well. Yes, we have a big job to do but we are in a strong position and it is how we approach the game that will be vital tomorrow.”
Defender Shkodran Mustafi echoed the comments of his manager and he feels Barcelona’s capitulation came at a good time for Arsenal as they are preparing for the second leg.
“I think the game that we saw yesterday was perfect timing for us to show us that we have to be really focused and really concentrated to finish off the job we did in the first leg.”
Meanwhile Wenger, for the first time publicly, also conceded the Europa League is now taking priority over the Premier League as Arsenal seek a return to Champions League football next season.
With a 13-point gap to the Premier League top four, Arsenal look like needing to replicate Manchester United’s achievement of winning the Europa League last year to claim a spot in Europe’s premier club competition.
“The Europa League is important for us, everyone knows that,” he added.
“We are at a stage where we focus on it because in the Premier League we have a very, very, very slim chance to move further up so the Europa League is one of the big targets now.”
Wenger also confirmed that Granit Xhaka had not travelled to Russia due to illness, joining David Ospina and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in being ruled out, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang also missing as he is cup-tied in the Europa League.