Despite seeing his side brush aside European giants AC Milan 5-1 on aggregate, over the course of two legs, in the UEFA Europa League, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger insisted Atletico Madrid were favourites to lift the continental competition.
“Maybe the team who is the biggest favourite is Atletico Madrid,” Wenger responded at his post-match presser when asked who he felt were the favourites, before adding, “But anyway, what I like doesn’t matter too much because I have no influence on it,”.
“We have to wait for tomorrow (Friday) and see who we get. If we get Atletico Madrid, we get Atletico Madrid. We have now some time to recover and prepare for it.”
Arsenal join the likes of CSKA Moscow, Red Bull Salzburg, Atletico Madrid, Lazio, Marseille, Sporting Lisbon and Red Bull Leipzig in the quarters.
Don’t miss: Danny Welbeck powers Arsenal past AC Milan
The draw for the quarter-finals of the Europa League will be made at 1200 GMT/17.30 IST on Friday at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, directly after the Champions League quarter-final draw.
“Overall I’m convinced that the team is strong and healthy. We recovered from (the Carabao Cup final) and hopefully we have to focus on something important now.”
“It’s difficult to do well in the league and in the Europa League. There’s a statistic that has come out which shows that in all the big five leagues, the teams who play in the Europa League struggle,” the French tactician stated when asked why teams struggle to perform domestically and in the Europa League simultaneously.
Most Europa League games take place on Thursdays, giving players 24 hours less to recover in time for their domestic matches, which largely are played on a Saturday or Sunday.
The winner of the Europa League gets an automatic spot in next season’s UEFA Champions League and thus, is Arsenal’s only realistic chance of qualifying for the elite competition.
Wenger is expected to prioritise the their continental matches over their Premier League ties in the weeks to come.