Midweek European Nights are always special occasions because of the Champions League and not being able to enjoy that must hurt the fans of those clubs who do not make the competition. Look away now, Spurs fans.
But of course, the players too. And Man United’s midfielder, Juan Mata, has confessed to the agony of he and his teammates having to watch, from their sofas, other Premier League teams playing in this year’s competition having missed out on the competition for the first time in nearly two decades. Mata was part of a poor United campaign last season despite costing a club record fee in January as a supposed turnaround savior, but now claims the players are looking to transform the pain into motivation for making sure of a place in next season’s Group Stage draws.
“It’s difficult, every Tuessday and Wednesday watching the games on TV” Mata said, per the Daily Star.
“It’s the thought we all have on our minds that we need to be back in the Champions League – it’s the most attractive competition in the world. We need to be there again”
Mata is one of a few senior players in the United squad who have won the Champions League, with Di Maria, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney, and he would know how much it hurts to go from winning it to missing out on the competition entirely, not even making the Europa League (You can now read on, Spurs fans).
United are in the final Champions League spot now but just three points separate them from Arsenal and Tottenham and with 16 more games to go, he is well aware of the mileage that will still need to be covered.
“It’s going to be a fight until the end and not just between two teams, it will be between three, four, five teams that are now in a short difference of points”
“This is our main objective this season, to play Champions League football again, because I think this club should always play in the Champions League”
For those who have slated Wenger for banking on top four finishes, this goes to show the importance players place on the Champions League and it remains the competition which most will rather not miss out on. For some, it’s their own World Cup, their only chance of being watched by over a billion persons in every part of the World and though Arsenal have not gone so far in the past seasons, making the Group stages in successive years is not something to be underestimated.
This could yet be the toughest season yet for the Gunners to make the competition as Southampton have looked good value for their current third place post so far. Liverpool want to push hard too, and Mata and United want to move up from fourth. West Ham are not so far at seventh place, either.
It’ll be interesting to see who makes it at the end, wouldn’t it.
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