LONDON • Alexandre Lacazette is hoping for a fairy-tale ending to an otherwise difficult debut season at Arsenal by firing the Gunners to the Europa League final in his hometown of Lyon next month.
Lacazette scored twice as Arsenal swept aside CSKA Moscow 4-1 in the first leg of their quarter-final on Thursday to take a huge step towards the semi-finals.
The France international has struggled to live up to his £46.5 million (S$85.9 million) price tag.
However, with club-record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied, he has his chance to shine in the competition that represents Arsenal's last shot at qualifying for next season's Champions League should they win in Lyon on May 16.
"I missed football a lot during my break," said Lacazette, fit again after six weeks out with a knee injury.
"I have come back stronger, but it is true scoring on my comeback on Sunday (against Stoke) helped."
Aaron Ramsey - who has 18 months left on his deal - also scored a brace, on a night when Arsenal showed they have the attacking potential to end a 24-year wait for a European trophy.
"It's important for me because in the (Premier) league, Aubameyang is going to play, unless the coach plays the two of us together," added Lacazette, who will be gunning for a start against Southampton tomorrow in place of the injured Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
"But I know in European competition, it is the chance to show plenty of things for me. I am desperate to win this trophy and, when we play like we did tonight, we can go far."
Lacazette's lack of playing time has also put his chances of making France's World Cup squad at risk.
But he knows making a big impression in the Europa League could make a big difference to his chances of going to Russia in June.
"I know that by performing and going far in the Europa League, I give myself a much better chance to go (to the World Cup)," he said.
Arsenal's victory was their fifth consecutive win in all competitions but manager Arsene Wenger has urged caution with Thursday's return leg not just a mere formality.
"We have to go there with the right focus and try to win the game," he said. "We need to keep our feet on the ground, be humble and try to do our job well."
In Spain, Atletico Madrid also took a big step towards reaching the last four of the Europa League with a 2-0 win over Sporting Lisbon. The Spanish LaLiga side extended their home winning streak in all competitions to nine games after Koke scored inside the opening 30 seconds and Antoine Griezmann added the second.
Lazio ended Salzburg's 35-game unbeaten run after a 4-2 win in Rome while a goal from RB Leipzig's Timo Werner sank Marseille 1-0 at home.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS