(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Mikel Arteta has challenged Arsenal's under-performing stars to save the club's season in the Europa League quarter-final second leg against Slavia Prague today. Arteta's side have no margin for error after being held to a 1-1 draw by Slavia in the first leg at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners, languishing in ninth place in the Premier League, must win the Europa League to qualify for next season's Champions League. But Leicester and Rangers have already been knocked out of the competition by the Czech team this term.
Next season is likely to be Arsenal's first without European football since the 1995-96 campaign if they don't survive against Slavia. Arsenal boss Arteta is well aware the critics are sharpening their knives after his disappointing first full season in charge.
'Internally, you know what you are doing and you can have many different ways of judging that but at the end of the day, externally results are the only important thing to give the perception that we are moving forward in the right direction, he said.
The Spaniard would buy himself some time if Arsenal progress to the last four and for that to happen he will need big performances from a squad that has struggled for consistency. 'It's very important for us and this is our club. There's no individual interest, it's all a collective interest that we want to do well in every competition, Arteta said. 'The game can put us in a position to go into the semi-final of a European competition. This is exactly where this club has to be and that's why we have to do our best to earn that.
Arteta knows the stakes will be high in Prague, but he is trying to keep calm. 'I don't want to put it in my mind or transmit it to any of the players or anybody at the club, he said when asked if he has considering the possibility of failing to qualify for Europe.
Arteta is unsure if Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Danish midfielder Martin Odegaard will be fit for the tie. Aubameyang and Odegaard, who is on loan from Real Madrid, missed training on Tuesday because of illness and an ankle injury respectively. The Gunners, however, have been buoyed by the availability of Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe after injuries.
Roma hope to hold off Ajax in hunt for semis
Meanwhile, Roma are hoping to reach the semi-finals of a European competition for the second time in four seasons as they host continental heavyweights Ajax, while Manchester United look set for the last four.
Ajax may be four-time European champions and one of the most exciting sides of recent seasons but it is Roma who have the advantage going into the second leg of their tie at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Italy's last remaining representative in Europe came away from the Johan Cruyff Arena with a thrilling come-from-behind 2-1 win after being under the cosh for much of the match and are close to a likely last-four clash with Man United after reaching the semis of the Champions League in 2018.
Roma have had a poor domestic season and sit seventh in Serie A — seven points off the Champion League places — after coming up short in almost all of their fixtures against their rivals for the European spots, so today's second leg could define their season.
Ajax are almost guaranteed to retain their Eredivisie title and warmed up for their trip to the Italian capital with a 1-0 win over RKC Waalwijk thanks to a goal from club-record signing Sebastien Haller, who cannot play against Roma after being accidentally left off his club's European squad list.
United are huge favourites to reach the semi-finals following their simple win over Granada in Spain last week, which should put an end to the surprise package's first ever season of European football. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are safely tucked in the Champions League places behind Premier League leaders Manchester City and looked in rude health in sweeping past Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 at the weekend.
United will be without key players Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay through suspension but two away goals in the first leg will likely be enough to see England's second-best team through at Old Trafford.
Meanwhile, Villarreal gun for their first ever major trophy, a Europa League triumph that would continue three-time winner Unai Emery's strong record in the competition. Gerard Moreno's only goal in Zagreb last week gave the La Liga outfit an away goal and a great chance of reaching the last four.
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