Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has urged his side to guard against complacency, insisting they heed the lesson of Barcelonas Champions League demise when they play CSKA Moscow for a place in the Europa Leagues last four.
The Gunners, who hold a commanding 4-1 lead from the first leg, will reach their first European semi-final in nine years should they navigate the concluding instalment of their last-eight tussle at the Arena CSKA.
But Barcelonas shock Champions League elimination at the hands of Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday, having held the same advantage from the first leg as Arsenal, has Wenger refusing to take matters for granted.
“It can happen in the game, that is why we love football, it is unpredictable,” said Wenger. “In every game, everything is questioned again. It is new every time. We are in a position where I dont think we are under threat of complacency, it is an important target for us to go as far as possible.
“[Romas comeback] may be a warning for us but let us not go overboard. Yes, we have a big job to do but we are in a strong position and it is how we approach the game that will be vital.”
Arsenal are winless in three European visits to Russia under Wenger, although they have the statistical sanctuary of only one previous team progressing from a Europa League knockout tie after losing the first leg by three goals.
But football is not the sole source of intrigue in Moscow and tonights showdown takes place against the backdrop of political tensions between the British government and the Kremlin prior to the summers World Cup in Russia.
Wenger believes sport can be a soother of such hostility. He said: “We have been well welcomed here. Sport can always play a positive role in life and between countries as well – football is a good opportunity to facilitate relations.
“I am convinced that Thursday night will be absolutely normal and the World Cup will be perfectly well organised. I have no problem about that but maybe sport will have a more active role during this period than ever.
“We are not really informed what is right and wrong so it is best for us to stay out of that. We had no problems to come here and I dont think that will affect the game. We had many Russian fans in London. There was no problem. Why should it be different here?”
Arsenal, who enter the clash on a six-game winning streak, will be without midfielder Granit Xhaka after he was left at home with flu. David Ospina, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Santi Cazorla remain sidelined, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is cup-tied having played for former club Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League this season.