Arsene Wenger reminded his players of the need to win their Champions League group ahead of their first ever tie in Bulgaria. Arsenal face Ludogorets in Sofia on Tuesday a fortnight after thrashing them 6-0 in London.
They are without injured quartet Theo Walcott, Santiago Cazorla, Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal but will be expected to return with three points and set up a group decider against Paris Saint-Germain.
‘It’s our prime target to win the group, said Wenger. ‘Step by step: qualify first. We have played Paris Saint-Germain away, and play them at home to come. We have a good opportunity tomorrow if we win.
‘It is an advantage because you play the second game in the last 16 at home, so you know exactly what you have to achieve at home.
You have the support. If it goes to extra-time or penalties, you play at home. So it’s a little advantage.
‘But if you can finish first, why finish second? We have paid the price many times when we’ve finished second, having to play Barcelona or Bayern Munich. So we think it’s important.’
Wenger anticipates another open game after the back and forth contest at the Emirates.
He said: ‘Well, yes, why not. They are in a position where they have to try and win the game as well, like we are. The first game was interesting.
‘They are an offensive team, so are we, so you should see two teams trying to go forward.’
However, Wenger is not predicting as simple a result for the Gunners on Tuesday night, as he believes the previous scoreline was a poor reflection of the contest at the Emirates.
He continued: ‘The result was flattering for us because we scored many goals. But I don’t forget that we were facing a good attacking Ludogorets team in that first half.
‘When the game was very tight, we needed a strong defensive performance to stop them being dangerous because they had many chances as well. We will have to again.’