Arsene Wenger wants his Arsenal side to finish top of their Champions League group, admitting he has felt guilty in the past when his side has finished second.
The Gunners can assure themselves of top spot with victory over Paris St Germain on Wednesday evening as they strive to avoid other European heavyweights in the draw for the round of 16.
Qualification into the knockout stages was assured with a 3-2 win against Ludogorets in Sofia a fortnight ago but, having not made it past the round of 16 for the past six years, they are aiming to finish as group winners for the first time since 2012.
With the likes of Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid both competing in Group D, while Borussia Dortmund and holders Real Madrid do battle in Group F, the concept of getting an easier opponent in the round of 16 by topping the group and therefore facing a runner-up may be out dated but Wenger does not want to be at fault if Arsenal land a tricky fixture.
“I feel guilty when we finish second and have a difficult tie,” conceded Wenger.
“Let’s finish first and at least we have the advantage to play the second game at home. Hopefully we will be injury free and have everyone available.
“You want to finish first, knowing that. Is there an actual difference? I don’t know. In a group of Real Madrid or Dortmund. The other groups might look at ours and think: Paris St Germain or Arsenal who is better? I don’t know.”
Closing the gap
The Champions League trophy has eluded Wenger during his two-decade reign at Arsenal but – with his current contract ending in the summer and his future still unclear – he believes English clubs are closing in on the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Asked if Premier League clubs were closing the gap, the Frenchman replied: “I feel that, yes.
“Man City winning against Barcelona, we have an opportunity to show it against Paris St Germain.
“Everywhere you go, the difference in the Champions League, the teams all play football. In the Premier league, even if you have 80 per cent possession, you can still lose the game. The pressure on the Premier League games is massive today.
“I must say that I watched Real Madrid against Atletico Madrid on Saturday and I was impressed by them. They looked at the moment to be the most dangerous side.”
Wenger’s side go into the game with injuries ruling out Hector Bellerin, Santi Cazorla, Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck and Lucas Perez.
The 67-year-old also has a decision to make on whether to bring Olivier Giroud in for just his second start of the campaign after the striker scored his fourth goal in four games with the equaliser in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Manchester United.
Meanwhile PSG are without defender Serge Aurier after he was refused permission by British authorities to travel to England, with the 23-year-old Ivory Coast international denied an entry visa because of a recent assault conviction.