Barcelona have dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in their respective Champions League group.
Barcelona have dropped into the Europa League after finishing third in their respective Champions League group. Their presence has made the competition that much more difficult for Arsenal to win, but the Gunners won’t have to play them immediately if they get things right against PSV Eindhoven on Thursday night.
Although Xavi’s side still have two matchdays to play in the elite European competition, Inter Milan’s 4-0 win over bottom placed Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday evening means that the Catalan outfit have dropped into Europe’s second string tournament.
Arsenal fans will be a little worried about them dropping down because the Gunners simply don’t have fond memories of playing Barcelona in Europe. After beating them 2-1 in a controversial Champions League final in 2006, the Blaugrana knocked the Gunners out at the Round of 16 stage in 2010, 2011 and 2016.
Barcelona aren’t the team they used to be, but whilst Arsenal are on the up, they’ll still be wary about potentially meeting them in the next stage of the competition. That immediate fear can be eradicated, though, if Arsenal avoid defeat in the Netherlands on Thursday.
The Gunners currently top Group A having won all four of their European matches thus far this season. PSV are in second and can mathematically climb above Arsenal, but a point will be enough to secure top spot for Mikel Arteta’s team.
If things do go as planned, the north London outfit will skip the Round of 32 and go straight into the Round of 16. Meanwhile, Barca will play the Round of 32 against one of the teams who finish second in their respective Europa League group.
Speaking about the importance of finishing top and avoiding the likes of Barca in his pre-match press conference ahead of PSV, Arteta said: “This competition is getting harder and harder. It looks like the next round is going to be competitive that’s why it’s so important to finish top.”
They could of course meet them in the Round of 16 when the time comes, but that is an unnecessary extra step. Plus, Barca could fail to reach that round altogether – although that would admittedly be surprising. Let’s see if the Gunners can hold their nerve with a good performance in the Netherlands.