Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta described Thursday’s Europa League last-32 second-leg clash against Benfica as a ‘final’ after Sunday’s 1-0 home defeat by Manchester City further dented their hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League.
Raheem Sterling’s goal after 75 seconds condemned Arsenal to its third defeat in four games and left them in 10th with 34 points, 11 points adrift of fourth-placed West Ham United.
If Arsenal does miss out on a top-four spot, it can qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League and Arteta said the competition had taken on added significance, with its tie against Benfica finely poised after a 1-1 draw in the first leg.
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“The Europa League’s always been really important but obviously every defeat now in the league will put us in a difficult position,” Arteta said.