Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is unhappy about UEFA’s decision to swap Tottenham’s Europa League ties ahead of a big north London derby.
The local rivals had both been drawn away from home for the Europa League round of 16, first leg – but under UEFA rules, two clubs from the same city cannot play on the same day.
That means Spurs will now host Dinamo Zagreb at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on March 11, three days before they head across town to face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
Arsenal, as FA Cup holders, were technically prioritised by UEFA – meaning their tie against Olympiacos stays as it was.
But that means the Gunners face a near-3,000 mile round trip to Athens before hosting the derby, and Arteta feels the decision gives Tottenham the edge going into the game.
“It does, but unfortunately it’s not going to change,” he said.
“We can raise our voices and we should do that, because we want to have two teams playing in equal conditions.
“But the decision has been made and that’s it.”
Instead, Arteta wants his players to use the perceived handicap as motivation to avenge their 2-0 defeat at Spurs in December.
“I don’t want to use one bit of excuse going towards that game saying, ‘oh, they have an advantage’,” he added.
“So no, probably I will use that to take it in our advantage. And that’s it.”
Arsenal head to the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium next Thursday for the second time in a fortnight, having hosted the ‘home’ leg of their round of 32 win over Benfica in Greece.
Arteta on Barca reports: I’m fully focused on Arsenal
Arteta says he is “fully focused” on managing the club and is “extremely happy” at the Emirates after reportedly emerging as a potential managerial target for Barcelona.
The Spanish club will hold its presidential elections on Sunday and candidate Joan Laporta, who is the favourite to be elected for a second stint at the Nou Camp, has reportedly identified Arteta as a potential replacement for current Barca boss Ronald Koeman.
Arteta was a product of Barcelona’s academy but left in 2002 without making an appearance for the club.
The 38-year-old also honed his coaching methods at Manchester City under former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, whom Laporta appointed in 2008.
But Arteta dismissed Catalan radio reports he could take charge of the Spanish giants, saying: “There is always going to be speculation when there are elections in Barcelona. It’s a huge team and obviously I was raised there as a player, and they’re always going to be linked.
“But I’m fully focused on the job that I have to do here. We have a lot to do and I’m really enjoying it.
“I feel privileged to manage this football club and I’m extremely happy.”
Asked whether he could manage Barcelona one day in the future, he responded: “Today and tomorrow I am the manager of Arsenal Football Club and I’m really enjoying it and I want to do much better than what we’ve done.”
Arteta, who won the FA Cup at the end of his first season in charge, was appointed Arsenal boss in December 2019 and will have two years left on his current deal at the end of this campaign.
Asked whether new contract negotiations have begun with the club, he replied: “No. We are in the middle of the season, we have a lot to play for and at the moment it’s not a priority.
“I still have my contract here and I’m happy here, and I don’t think it’s something urgent.”