Hector Bellerin has said that Arsenal have all their attention on FC Köln, as the Europa League could ensure future participation in the Champions League.
Arsenal have an interesting week ahead. They play FC Köln in the Europa League and then travel to Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday. The Chelsea game is the more important of the two and is naturally attracting more attention. However, Bellerin has said that Arsenal are only thinking about Thursday night’s game.
“Our focus is on Thursday’s game,” Bellerin told IBTimes. “It is a very important match to start the Europa League on the right foot. We have to give our best and only after that will we start to think about Chelsea [Sunday 1.30pm]. The Europa League is a very important competition for us.
“We know that if we have the possibility of winning it, we will return to the Champions League next year, which is one of our targets. It’s a competition that we know we can win and we’re going to fight as much as in the other competitions to do it. Whoever plays, we are going to give our best.”
As Bellerin rightly points out, winning the Europa League is one way of getting back into the Champions League. Manchester United used that route last season. They sacrificed their league form in the second-half of the season to concentrate on winning the Europa League and Champions League qualification.
Arsenal will juggle with the league and Europa League as they negotiate what should be a straight-forward group. Should they qualify, they will then have to decide if they want to pursue the Europa League seriously or not. There’s a good chance Bellerin will be left out of Thursday’s game, along with several other first-team players.
So while Arsenal should give FC Köln their due respect, the short turnover between games means decisions have to be made with the Chelsea game in mind.