Before the game against Zagreb, Arsene Wenger was reported as having talked up the Europa League, saying it was a respectable competition which should be taken seriously. This opinion smacks of the pessimist preparing for his team’s imminent participation in a competition Arsenal would surely stand far more chance of winning than the Champion’s League.

Before the game against Maccabi Tel Aviv, Jose Mourinho was talking about finishing in the top four and winning the Champion’s League. This opinion smacks of the optimist who, through nothing more than blind faith and an inordinate amount of confidence in his own ability, expects his team to succeed even after a very poor start to the season.

In my experience, for what it’s worth, it is always better to be a pessimist as one can never be disappointed. Constantly surprised and delighted, but never disappointed. Let’s face it, when it all goes pear-shaped it was expected anyway, so hardly anything to get disheartened about.

So, of the two, Arsene Wenger is far less likely than Jose Mourinho to be disappointed. He is praising a competition in which he is expecting to take part. If a miracle happens and Arsenal qualify for the next stage of the Champion’s League, then he can be over the moon, and rightly so. If not, never mind, the Europa League is a wonderful competition.

At the moment, the miracle is on it’s way to happening for Arsenal. Having beaten Zagreb convincingly and with Bayern having done the same to Olympiakos, it now goes down to the last game, in Greece, against the team who beat them at the Emirates. Arsenal need to win 2-0 or better or by any result providing they score three goals or more to advance.

After an opening ten minutes that saw Zagreb as the team most likely to score, Arsenal took control and never really looked uncomfortable. First half goals from Ozil and Sanchez gave them a deserved 2-0 lead at the interval.

The second half was notable for a well worked goal from Alexis Sanchez who scored his second and Arsenal’s third. They then saw out the game with relative ease.

On the other hand, if Chelsea fail to finish in the top four and/or don’t win the Champions League, then Mourinho will be disappointed. He won’t show it, of course, but the fact that he considered it a possibility meant that he wanted to do it, and it will irk him that he didn’t.

Chelsea, after tonight’s result are well on their way to qualifying for the knockout stage of the Champions League where, in fairness, anything can happen so anything is possible. All they need to do is draw with Porto at Stamford Bridge. The problem is that if they lose and Dinamo Kiev beat Maccabi Tel Aviv, which they probably will, then Chelsea are in Arsene Wenger’s second favourite European competition. I don’t see this happening though.

As for the game, Maccabi shot themselves in the foot when Ben Haim was sent off for a kick on Diego Costa and at half time Chelsea went in leading 1-0 thanks to Gary Cahill.

In the second half the usual difficulty when playing a team reduced to ten men faced Chelsea. In all honesty they weren’t very good at overcoming that difficulty either. In fact, on a couple of occasions Maccabi could have embarrassed them.

All fears were allayed however, when Willian won a free kick on the edge of the penalty area. He took it himself with the almost inevitable result. This was followed by a goal from Oscar, the result of a wonderful cross from Baba. Then Zouma scored a fourth to underline Chelsea’s dominance which materialised after an hour or so when they realised they were playing against a team who had had a man sent off.

So, when all said and done, a good night for London. Both Arsenal and Chelsea can now qualify depending upon their results in the final games. Chelsea’s task, however, does look decidedly easier than Arsenal’s.

Good luck to both!


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