London (AFP) – Mikel Arteta has labelled Arsenal’s north London derby against Tottenham on Thursday as the “defining moment” of their season as they chase a return to the Champions League.
Eddie Nketiah’s double sealed a 2-1 victory over struggling Leeds on Sunday to leave Arsenal on the brink of ending their five-year exile from top-tier European football.
Fourth placed Arsenal sit four points clear of fifth placed Tottenham with three games left for both teams.
A victory in the crunch clash at Tottenham would be enough to book a Champions League berth for the first time since 2017 and Gunners boss Arteta is relishing the opportunity.
“We are going to go for that match with the same enthusiasm that we always do but knowing that this can be a defining moment,” Arteta said.
“It can be another layer of motivation for us to really go for it. I can’t wait for the game.
“We have earned the right to play that game in that context. We started the season with nine or 10 players out and playing the best two teams in Europe.”
While Arsenal are looking optimistically towards a memorable end to the season, third bottom Leeds have slumped into the relegation zone after a second successive defeat.
Leeds, below fourth bottom Burnley on goal difference, host Chelsea on Wednesday before ending the season with games against Brighton and Brentford.
Jesse Marsch insisted his team will do everything in their power to avoid slipping back into the Championship after two seasons in the top tier.
“I think we had a really bad start and dug a hole for ourselves which we didn’t need to,” he said.
“Obviously we are in a difficult situation. We have to regroup and figure out what we can do.
“Our backs are against the wall. We are in the relegation zone but we have to fight for our lives.”
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