Arsene Wenger has spoken out in defence of the Europa League ahead of the last Premier League fixtures of the campaign. The fight for a place in next season's Champions League is set to go down to the wire, with only the side who finish in third spot guaranteed to appear in Europe's premier club competition next season.
Arsenal (4/6 To Beat West Brom) are currently in the driving seat for third spot, with a small cushion to rivals Tottenham and surprise package Newcastle. Wenger's side face a tricky visit to West Brom (4/1 To Beat Arsenal) at the Hawthorns on Sunday and only a win will suffice for the Gunners. Should arsenal lose and results go against them, they could find themselves out of Champions League contention and thus playing their European football in the Europa League next season.
The second-best European competition has come in for much criticism but Wenger was quick to jump to its' defence, saying: "Personally, I don't feel it's a useless competition. What's a useless competition for you? For me, a good competition is when you see two good teams play a good game. I watched Bilbao and Atletico Madrid and I watched the whole game, didn't miss a second. When you play Thursday night and Sunday it's exactly the same as Wednesday night and Saturday. If you ask me if we prefer the Champions League to Europa League then you are completely right."
Should Arsenal (2/5 To Finish Above Tottenham) fail to qualify for the Champions League, it could call the future of star player Robin van Persie into question. The Dutchman is thought to be close to agreeing a new deal to keep him at the Emirates, but he is a player of Champions League calibre and expects to be playing at the highest level. With several of Europe's biggest clubs hovering, his presence next season could well hinge on the outcome of Sunday's action.