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Arsenal striving for top spot in Champions League

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 3, 2012 at 6:02 am •  Published: December 3, 2012
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LONDON (AP) — Already assured of spots in the last 16 of the Champions League, Schalke and Arsenal still have first place to play for Tuesday when they complete their group-stage campaigns.

Arsenal travels to Olympiakos knowing the perils of finishing second — the last time it happened, in 2010, the English team was drawn against Barcelona in the knockout stage and was beaten over two legs by the eventual champions.

To finish at the top of Group B, Arsenal must win in Greece and rely on last-place Montpellier to take points off Schalke in France.

The fight for first place keeps alive any real interest in the group, with Olympiakos assured of third place and a spot in the Europa League.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger had pledged to take a full-strength squad to Olympiakos, although the team's recent struggles in the Premier League may persuade him to change his mind and rest some key players.

The London club has slipped to 10th place in the standings following its worst start to a league campaign after 15 games under Wenger. Arsenal was humiliated by Swansea on Saturday, losing 2-0 and trudging off to jeers at fulltime.

"We know that results will bring everyone together," Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta said. "When they don't come, people will be criticized — the manager, players and staff.

"The main thing is that everyone give 100 percent now."

The Champions League also comes as a welcome distraction for Schalke, whose form has dipped alarmingly in the Bundesliga with just five points earned from its last six games.

"Of course we'd like to be first in the group so that we can hope for a slightly easier opponent in the knockout stage," Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt said. "But we also need a good result to give us a push for the remaining games before the winter break."

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