By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Beaten five times on a humbling night in Munich on Wednesday, Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech says the London club can still qualify for the Champions League last 16 despite being bottom of Group F with two games left to play.
The 5-1 defeat by Bayern Munich, coupled with a late winner for Greek side Olympiakos Piraeus against Dinamo Zagreb means Arsenal must win their last two games and hope for the best.
“You (need to) win two games and we need to make sure that the head to head against Olympiakos is in our favour,” former Chelsea keeper Cech told Arsenal’s website (www.arsenal.com).
“Then you can go through.”
While Cech makes the equation sound relatively simple, Arsenal’s destiny is not in their hands.
The Gunners must beat Zagreb in their next fixture, hope Olympiakos lose to Bayern on the same night and then go to Greece on the final match night and win by two goals, having been beaten 3-2 at home by Olympiakos already.
Bayern top the group with nine points, followed by Olympiakos (9), Dinamo (3) and Arsenal (3).
“Everything is possible. We have two games to play, we have to regroup and continue fighting until the last minute,” Cech added. “You need to make sure that you recover and move on to the next one. It was not a day we wanted.”
Manager Arsene Wenger has a proud record of guiding his team through the initial group stage of the Champions League, achieving that feat every year since 1999-2000.
He is not giving up on keeping that run going, although he said: “It’s a small chance but it is a real one.
“We have to realise with that kind of performance that we had today that our chances are minimal.”
Many Arsenal fans took to social media outlets on Thursday saying they would rather Arsenal finish bottom of the group and be eliminated from European competition altogether rather than finish third and qualify for the Europa League.
The general sentiment was if they were out of Europe they could concentrate on their challenge for the Premier League title without the need for draining Thursday night fixtures in the second half of the season.
In contrast to their poor European form, Arsenal are second in the Premier League behind Manchester City and play arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur in their next league match at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
(Editing by Mike Collett)