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Wenger eager for Arsenal to take final step

How Arsenal FC lost top billing in Group H no longer matters to Arsène Wenger, who simply wants to finish the job of qualifying for the last 16 by beating FK Partizan in London.

Wenger eager for Arsenal to take final step
Wenger eager for Arsenal to take final step ©UEFA.com

Arsenal FC may find themselves in "a tricky position" on Matchday 6 – needing a home win against eliminated FK Partizan to guarantee a place in the round of 16 after back-to-back defeats – but Arsène Wenger knows the Gunners remain in control of their destiny in what is the tightest of the eight UEFA Champions League groups. Partizan have been overpowered by Arsenal, leaders FC Shakhtar Donetsk and SC Braga, yet are looking to bow out on a high.

Arsène Wenger, Arsenal manager
For us it's quite simple: we want the Champions League to be an important part of our targets, we want to be in the last 16, and to qualify we want to win. We have put ourselves in a tricky position but it's still in our hands. We lost in Donetsk and Braga and the fact Donetsk have won all their games apart from the big defeat here means they are in a strong position to finish top of the group.

In Braga we were a bit unlucky and when we played Donetsk they had a very good game. I didn't necessarily expect it to come down to the last game but you have to be ready for every possibility in this job. Ideally you want to finish top of the group but now we want to just make sure we qualify.

People focus on our defensive problems but don't forget we have the best away record in the Premier League so that means we are defensively quite solid. We want to focus on our defensive duties at home and it's more down to that than any defensive deficiencies. In the last few games we were punished every time we made a mistake defensively and that is not always the case.

Aleksandar Stanojević, Partizan coach
It's a big honour to play Arsenal in such an important game for them. I'm sorry we are already out but we will still try to play our best. This is a very successful season for us and in our last match in the Champions League we hope to play well. We know Arsenal have problems in defence and they often change their players, but Arsenal are very attacking and they like to attack. We have to defend these counterattacks and we will try to attack their defence. In the first match in Belgrade we did this and were dangerous.

We've played some good matches and against Braga we were the better team. We need Champions League experience and to play in some difficult matches. It's so important to play these matches at this level and this is still a good experience for the team and I look forward to next year. We hope to keep our concentration and try to get our first points. I'm sure we can do it but whether we are successful or not we will see tomorrow.

Team news
Laurent Koscielny is fit after suffering concussion in a collision with Sébastien Squillaci on Saturday but Djourou, who replaced him, will not feature because of a thigh problem. Vermaelen (Achilles) is out until January while Cesc Fàbregas (hamstring) remains sidelined. Robin van Persie "is getting better and better" and could start. Other absentees are Abou Diaby (ankle) and Emmanuel Frimpong (knee).

Right-back Aleksandar Miljković will take no part after injuring his groin during the first half of Saturday's victory against FK Sloboda Sevojno, while Ivan Stevanović (illness) is also an absentee.

Weekend results
04/12/10 Arsenal 2-1 Fulham FC
(Nasri 14 75; Kamara 30)
Samir Nasri scored for the third successive league game and has eight Premier League goals this season; he managed six in 2008/09, his previous best.

04/12/10 Partizan 5-2 FK Sloboda Sevojno
(Cléo 1 6, Petrović 13, Babović 25, Iliev 72; Stevančević 65, Ademović 77)
Partizan secured their place at the top of the Serbian Super League going into the winter break, finishing the first half of the campaign five points clear of second-placed FK Crvena zvezda.

Did you know?
Partizan have played in London once before, facing Queens Park Rangers FC in a remarkable 1984/85 UEFA Cup second-round tie. Partizan lost 6-2 away but won the return 4-0 to progress on away goals.

See the match background for more information.