Finishing top of its Europa League group may prove crucial for Arsenal’s hopes of progressing deep into the competition, coach Mikel Arteta said ahead of Thursday’s visit to PSV Eindhoven, where it needs one point to guarantee a first-place finish.
Arsenal leads Group A on 12 points from four games, five ahead of second-placed PSV, and if it avoids defeat it will qualify for the last 16 and avoid a two-legged playoff.
“This competition is getting harder and harder,” Arteta told a news conference on Wednesday.
“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.”
The eight sides who come second in the standings will compete in February’s playoffs, where they will face the eight teams finishing third in their Champions League group.
Barcelona was relegated to the Europa League on Wednesday, while the likes of Juventus and Atletico Madrid -- who lost their chance to remain in Europe’s top club competition -- could earn places next week.
In the last round of games, Arsenal hosts Zurich on Nov. 3 when PSV travels to Bodo/Glimt.