Thursday 22 November 2012
Arsene Wenger has called on his Arsenal side to focus on the Barclays Premier League after securing passage to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League for the 13th season in a row.
Arsenal progressed after beating Montpellier 2-0 through second-half goals by Jack Wilshere, his first in two years, and Lukas Podolski and Wenger wants his team to triumph at Olympiacos in their final fixture to maintain hopes of topping the group.
"It is important you get closer to the top before Christmas"
Before then they have a trip to Aston Villa on Saturday and the Frenchman is looking to close the nine-point gap on Manchester City in the league.
"We have some time in the Champions League and now we can focus on the next step,” said Wenger. "But in the championship we have to make points. It is important you get closer to the top before Christmas.
"We will play to win, to finish top of the group. If you look at some groups, like the one with Dortmund and Real Madrid, you don't really know whether it is better to finish first or second.
"But overall statistically it is still better to finish top because you feel you've done your better if you finish top of the group. We will try to win at Olympiacos and Montpellier can beat Schalke at home. We will take a full-strength team."
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is targeting third place in group D after his team's hopes of going to the knockout stages ended with a 1-1 home draw against Real Madrid.
"When we started this group we knew it was difficult"
Karim Benzema put the Spanish champions in front but the scores were levelled by a Sergio Aguero penalty in the second half. City were unable to find a winner past ten-man Real, for whom Alvaro Arbeloa was sent off, and must beat Borussia Dortmund away and hope Ajax cannot defeat Real in the final fixtures to secure a Europa League spot.
"We want to be in the Europa League, if it is possible," Mancini said. “The first half we played so so. We missed one or two chances. I am disappointed like everyone here. We did some mistakes.
“When we started this group we knew it was difficult. But we are a good team. You can lose against Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, but we are disappointed - we wanted to go to the next stage.”
Another concern for Mancini was City captain Vincent Kompany leaving the Etihad Stadium on crutches. Kompany took a knock during the second half and, although the Belgian was able to complete the game, he was not moving freely.
Mancini will be hoping that Kompany has not sustained too much damage, particularly with a visit to Chelsea looming on Sunday.