Emery guns for Champions League

LONDON • While Arsenal and Chelsea will ring the changes for today's Europa League ties against Ukrainian outfit Vorskla and Greece's Paok respectively, that does not diminish the importance of European football's second-tier club competition.

Having lifted the Europa League trophy for three successive years from 2014-16 while at Sevilla, Gunners manager Unai Emery has fond memories of the competition, and the Spaniard is well aware that winning it offers a back door into the Champions League.

Speaking ahead of today's clash, he said: "After the Champions League, the Europa League is the most important competition.

"When you win the Europa League, you play in the Champions League, it was the key to improve the interest in the competition."

Emery is expected to hand £22 million (S$39.7 million) summer transfer Bernd Leno his goalkeeping debut, while fellow close-season signings Stephan Lichtsteiner and Lucas Torreira are in line for their first starts.

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has also opted to keep his squad fresh by leaving star forward Eden Hazard in London.

The Italian is hoping Ruben Loftus-Cheek can play after he missed Chelsea's win over Cardiff last Saturday with an injury, while Ethan Ampadu, for whom the club yesterday announced a new five-year deal extension, should also feature.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2018, with the headline 'Emery guns for Champions League'. Print Edition | Subscribe