Jose Mourinho "would love" to bring silverware to Tottenham to mark two decades at the helm for chairman Daniel Levy.

Spurs face Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League round of 16 on Thursday, which will mark 20 years since Levy assumed the role following ENIC's takeover in 2001.

While Levy's reign has proven a huge commercial success, on-field glory remains scarce, with the 2008 EFL Cup triumph providing the only exception.

Premier League title tilts have floundered, while the 2018-19 campaign ended with a Champions League final loss to Liverpool.

Mourinho, a serial trophy-winner, was brought in to replace Mauricio Pochettino a matter of months after that defeat in Spain, and he has his heart set on success.

As well as the Europa League, Spurs have an EFL Cup final with Manchester City on the horizon, and Mourinho – who is approaching a milestone of his own – is hoping to make some additions to the trophy cabinet as reward for Levy's work.

"I would love to help and be part of the work that will deliver a trophy. I would love it," he said.

"I don't think sometimes it's fair for an owner, CEO or president to be judged on trophies. Many times they depend on others too.

"I think there are many ways to look at work in football and the work has been done in this club, independent of the trophies the club didn't get.

"The work is in other aspects. It's a big club now in many aspects and that's down to the work he's done and the structure he has put in place.

"But trophies are the salt and pepper of football and I would love to, not just for him but for the players and fans and everyone, help.

"I'm not a big guy on stats but my 1,000th match arrives this season and it would also be nice to celebrate that with a trophy with him."

In between the two legs of their Europa League showdown with Dinamo, Spurs take on Arsenal in the north London derby, but Mourinho urged focus on the immediate task at hand.

"I am not thinking about the Arsenal match," he said.

"I am thinking about his one. We will make changes the same way we made changes between the Fulham and the Crystal Palace match.

"The team is playing well and the team is winning, so you could say no changes, but we change.

"We won't play with the same team that played against Palace but the team will be equally strong."

One question mark is over the involvement of the in-form Gareth Bale, who has scored six goals in as many games and provided three assists, with Mourinho insisting the Wales forward's playing time needed to be carefully managed.

"I want to keep the momentum going but I need to manage him," he said.

"The communication is very good and I think he trusts me. In this moment we are deciding together what to do.

"He's playing very well. The relationship with him is very good I think and, of course, I would like him to play 90 minutes in every game, but he can't."

Mikel Arteta has heaped praise on Martin Odegaard for how he has started at Arsenal, calling the midfielder's effort "phenomenal".

Odegaard joined Arsenal on loan from Real Madrid towards the end of the January transfer window.

He is yet to register a goal or an assist in eight outings for the Gunners, prompting former players like Martin Keown and Nigel Winterburn to criticise his start.

But Arteta has been highly impressed by the 22-year-old and is thrilled with how well he has settled, amid speculation over whether Arsenal will opt to pursue a permanent move.

"I'm really happy with him," said Arteta. "I think he has settled really, really quickly into the team and with what we demand from the players. 

"His behaviour, his attitude and his work rate has been phenomenal. 

"He has had better moments than others during games to give us the special qualities he has, but overall, I'm really happy with him."

One of the players Odegaard is battling with for selection is emerging attacking midfielder Emile Smith Rowe.

Smith Rowe has been out of action with a hip injury for the last 10 days but might be back in time to face Olympiacos in the Europa League last-16 first leg on Thursday.

"He is going to have a full session [on Wednesday] to see if he can be involved for [Thursday's] game," said Arteta.

"After training, we will know exactly where we are with him."

The tie will see Arsenal come up against former player Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who joined Olympiacos on a two-year deal in January.

Arteta added ahead of the away first leg: "I am looking forward to seeing Papa, he is such a good character and a very popular player here. 

"He was liked and loved by everybody. It was a pleasure to work with him, such a pro. 

"It is true he knows what we try to do, but there isn’t a magic formula. I’m sure he will try to do his best and we will do the same."

Arsenal and Olympiacos have previously met on 10 occasions across all European competitions, with no encounter ending level and both teams winning five times each.

Greek champions Olympiacos dumped Arsenal out of the Europa League last season at the last-32 stage.

The Gunners are hoping to avoid back-to-back eliminations suffered at the hands of the same side, which last happened to them in 2012-13 and 2013-14 against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Granit Xhaka has received the backing of team-mates past and present after his calamitous error against Burnley.

The Swiss midfielder was at fault for the Clarets' leveller in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Turf Moor, directing an attempted pass into the midriff of Chris Wood, with the ball diverting into the net.

Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Xhaka has made eight errors leading to goals in the top flight, which is more than any other outfield Premier League player.

He looked set to head into Thursday's Europa League clash at Olympiacos with criticism ringing in his ears, having felt compelled to issue an apology on Instagram.

But the 28-year-old has since been showered with praise by Thomas Partey and ex-Gunner Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who is now with Olympiacos.

"I think he's a great player," said Partey. "We all know he works hard for the club, he works hard for his team-mates when he's on the pitch.

"As we all know in football, you never know when you're going to have a bad day and that's part of it.

"We have to keep raising each other, keep fighting for each other and that's how we're going to have a good game and win matches.

"All the players know what we have to do when we play together. It doesn't matter who we play with, we have to do our best and win games."

Striking a similar tone to Partey, Sokratis – who joined Arsenal in 2018 and left in January this year – offered a glowing tribute to his former team-mate.

"Granit is one of the best team-mates I've had the pleasure of working with," Sokratis told Football London.

"He's a very important player for Arsenal and I believe that he's a good player who can be a leader in the team.

"When you make one mistake everybody will go against you, but I know Granit's character. Before the Burnley game he played five or six games where he was probably the best player in the team.

"I think he's one of Arsenal's best players and certainly one of the best midfielders that I've played with."

In between Arsenal's two-legged round-of-16 clash with Olympiacos, Mikel Arteta's side have the small matter of Sunday's north London derby with Tottenham.

Mikel Arteta concedes the next week will be "massive" in determining the success of Arsenal's season and wants his players to ignore any criticism coming their way.

Arsenal visit Olympiacos in the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday, with Arteta hoping the Gunners can gain revenge.

They were beaten on away goals by the Greek side in the last 32 of last season's competition.

The tournament represents the Gunners' best chance of reaching next year's Champions League, with them having slumped to 10th in the Premier League.

A key week will also see Arsenal face rivals Tottenham in the north London derby on Sunday, before the return leg against Olympiacos.

Arsenal also face West Ham in another London derby before the international break and Arteta knows the pressure is on.

"The players have to focus on performing as good as possible and try to do their best on the pitch," Arteta said. 

"That criticism with where it is coming from with which intentions is something that they must not pay attention to because they cannot control.

"The better we do individually and the better we do collectively, things are going to work better and that's the responsibility they have all the time when they jump on that pitch.

"Obviously, it's a massive week for us, we have four very important games coming up and we need to win all of them. That is our reality and this is how we are going to approach it.

"But we are talking about [it being a decisive week] every week."

Arteta reflected on the Olympiacos loss last year, which saw Arsenal beaten 2-1 at home in the final moments of extra time in the second leg, having earned a 1-0 away win in the opening clash.

"Well obviously, it was a really tough one to swallow," he said.

"The way it happened at the end was really cruel after everything we did in the two games to lose it the way we did it and with the last chance that Auba [Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang] had. 

"But we moved on. Obviously, we have some feeling towards that team and we want to put it right.

"Emotionally it really drained us because it was a rollercoaster during the game and with what happened, it could have ended in a beautiful way, but it ended in a really harsh way for us. 

"I think emotionally it took some time to get the team and some individuals lifted because it really hurt.

"We have the two games to look at and everything that happened in those two games. The disappointment that we had to digest, and it took some time to do that because it was a hard one. We had a lot of faith and enthusiasm in the competition, and we were knocked out.

"And now we have another opportunity. It's the beauty of this game. It's a completely different context but the reality is the same that we have to beat them twice to go through in the competition and we have to be better than them.

"They are coming from playing in the Champions League. They played against City two really good games as well so it will be a really tough opponent.

"It's a team that is used to playing in all those competitions and they beat us last year. It doesn't matter the manner but they did it last year so we have to be better than last year to beat them now."

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire paid tribute to the "brilliant" job Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is doing as manager, adamant he has overseen an improvement in their fortunes.

Maguire is in his second season at United, having joined in 2019 in a reported £80million deal, making him the most expensive defender of all time.

Solskjaer guided United back into the Champions League last term, though their third-place finish with 66 points was still seen as somewhat underwhelming given the significant amount of money spent on the team and the fact title-winners Liverpool ended up with 99 points.

Although the Red Devils failed to get out of their Champions League group, with Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig going through instead, United do look likely to improve significantly on their haul of 66 points – after 28 Premier League games, they have 54 following the weekend win over leaders Manchester City.

That 2-0 victory probably came too late in the season to do any real damage to City's march towards the title, with Pep Guardiola's men still 11 clear at the summit, but Maguire believes there are clear signs of progress under the Norwegian.

"We have a great relationship," Maguire told UEFA about Solskjaer ahead of Thursday's Europa League last-16 first leg visit of Milan.

"I feel he's done brilliantly – he's cool, calm, but he's also got the side of him where he can turn when he needs to and when the players need a little telling-off.

"We're close. We speak a lot before training, before games. I give my ideas to him and how I feel the group is and the mentality of the group and what we can improve on and where we can go as a club, and he's exactly the same.

"We've definitely improved. I joined two years ago, and people didn't think we'd get in the top four. We got in the top four, and then you start the next season and people don't think you'll get in the top four [again].

"But then when you find yourself, let's say, sitting second in the table, people then say: 'Well, Manchester United should be second in the table; they should be challenging for the top.' So, everything… it's just the demands, the demands, the demands.

"The mentality has changed. We're more consistent now. Obviously, it was disappointing to get knocked out in the Champions League, but we've found ourselves in a position in the Premier League where now we've got to kick on."

United are in the knockout phase of the Europa League for the second successive season – in 2019-20 they made it to the semi-finals but were beaten by Sevilla.

The omens are not great for United this time around, either – they have been eliminated from four of their five knockout ties with Milan, with no team knocking them out of European competitions more often.

Nevertheless, Milan's recent record in the last 16 of European tournaments is poor, being defeated at this stage in six of seven previous occasions they have gone this far into a continental competition.

Diego Simeone earned a place in the Atletico Madrid history books with Sunday's win over Villarreal.

The Argentine coach enjoyed his 308th victory in charge of the club in Atletico's 2-0 LaLiga triumph.

An own goal from Alfonso Pedraza and a fine strike from Joao Felix secured the win, sending Atletico five points clear at the top of the table.

In so doing, Simeone matched the esteemed Luis Aragones as the Atletico head coach with the highest number of victories in all competitions.

Simeone's latest win came in his 512th match in charge. Aragones, the only man to take charge of more games, reached 308 wins in 612 matches at a rate of 50.3 per cent.

Atletico have drawn 120 times and lost only 84 games under Simeone, who took over on December 23 in 2011 and has since become the club's most successful coach.

TROPHIES

Aragones, a star for Atletico as a player, also won six trophies as head coach. Simeone, with seven, is the only man with more.

In a little over nine years in charge, the former Argentina midfielder has led Atletico to two UEFA Super Cups, two Europa Leagues, one Supercopa de Espana, one Copa del Rey and, most famously, their only LaLiga title in the past 25 years back in 2013-14.

Simeone has helped to tip the balance of power somewhat in Spain's capital. He is the only coach to have won three finals against Real Madrid in three different competitions: the Copa del Rey (2013), the Supercopa de Espana (2014) and the UEFA Super Cup (2018).

He has twice faced them in the Champions League final, too, losing after extra time in 2014 and on penalties two years later.

 

TRAILBLAZING

Among South American coaches, only Helenio Herrera (359) has taken charge of more LaLiga matches than Simeone (351).

All of those have been with Atletico, of course. There are just two coaches to oversee more LaLiga games at a single club: Aragones at Atletico (407) and Miguel Munoz at Real Madrid (424).

Munoz won 357 of his 605 games in charge of Los Blancos in all competitions, so Simeone has a little way to go to surpass that tally. Still, he has already won more games than Barcelona record-holder Johan Cruyff, who won 244 times out of 421 matches.

 

TITANS

Antoine Griezmann is the player to score the most goals under Simeone at Atletico, with 133 in all competitions.

The rest of the top five includes Diego Costa (75), Radamel Falcao (58), Koke (44) and Saul Niguez (43).

Koke leads the way for assists, with 95, comfortably clear of Griezmann (46), Gabi (44), Angel Correa (43) and Juanfran (32).

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is relishing the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Old Trafford after being blown away by the late-career rejuvenation of the Swedish great.

Manchester United and Milan were drawn together in the Europa League last 16 on Friday, giving the second-tier competition a glamour tie.

A serious knee ligament injury sustained in April 2017, near the end of his first season with Manchester United, raised doubts about whether Ibrahimovic would play at the highest level again. He got fit enough to make a first-team return before heading off to LA Galaxy, seemingly to wind down his career in the United States.

Yet Ibrahimovic was not finished with European football and in December 2019 embarked on a second spell with Milan, which has surpassed the most generous of expectations.

Ibrahimovic has scored 27 goals in 40 games so far for the Rossoneri, including 16 in 20 appearances this season to help Milan mount a title challenge. In doing so, the 39-year-old has passed the 500-goal mark in his club career.

Milan's lead in the Scudetto race was reined in by Inter, who now lead the way in Serie A, but Ibrahimovic's impact has been seismic in Italy.

United loanee Diogo Dalot, who has played 19 games for Milan this season, may also be heading back to Manchester for the March 11 first leg as he is eligible for the tie.

"Zlatan, of course, I've been so impressed, I've got to say, by how his career has gone," United manager Solskjaer told the club's official website.

"He had a career-threatening injury when he was here but came back from that and went to MLS, then came back to Milan and has really lifted them. They're on the up and have done really well this season.

"I've been so impressed by him, and Diogo we know. He went there to get some experience at a big club and he's learned a lot. He's played a lot more games this season, kept fit and, hopefully, we can give him some bother!"

Ibrahimovic hit 28 goals in 46 games in his first season at United, adding one more strike in seven games in the following season as he fought his way back to full fitness.

His United goals came at a rate of one every 139.1 minutes, compared to his stunning Milan average strike rate of 109.9 minutes per goal.

He has also boosted his big chance conversion rate from 35.7 per cent at United to 45 per cent with Milan.

Solskjaer, whose side face Chelsea in the Premier League this Sunday, may have wished for a kinder European draw, particularly as it came on the Norwegian's 48th birthday.

"It's a nice birthday gift, isn't it? To watch that draw!" he said. "We do have the tradition of making it hard for ourselves in draws.

"It's one of the those draws again that you feel could be a Champions League game. It's good for us to have these games to look forward to. This team needs challenges and we enjoy challenges and we embrace them.

"The tradition and history of AC Milan, it's a great club that we welcome and it's a great stadium that we go to there, and we're looking forward to it."

Jose Mourinho thinks it would be "wonderful" if Tottenham were able to play a part in an all-English Europa League final.

Reacting to the draw for the last 16 on Friday, which saw Spurs paired with Dinamo Zagreb, Mourinho accepted there were some positives.

Arsenal and Manchester United are also in the draw and will face Olympiacos and Milan respectively, with a realistic chance of three English sides making it into the quarter-finals.

While he did not want to get carried away, Mourinho did discuss the prospect of facing the other Premier League sides later in the tournament after Spurs defeated Wolfsberger 8-1 on aggregate to book their Dinamo tie.

"When you are in this competition and you get to this stage you don't get easy clubs," said Mourinho.

"If you want to win it, sooner or later you have to play against the best clubs or the ones who go through the different stages. So, the objective now is to win against Dinamo.

"Then if later Arsenal and Manchester United are in the competition, we have always to face them.

"It happened in the Champions League final, two English clubs, happened in the Europa League with Arsenal and Chelsea too.

"It's something that can happen and if it does, wonderful for us if we are one of the two teams. And [it would be] wonderful for English football to have two teams in the final.

"But in this moment,16 teams, everybody wants the same so it's very premature to think about it."

While Dinamo Zagreb are top of the Croatian league, other possible opponents for Spurs included Milan, Roma, Ajax and Villarreal.

Mourinho, who has won the Europa League twice in spells at Porto and United, added: "Good stadium, I believe we are going to play there.

"Not a very difficult flight, not too far, so I feel very positive things, but the most important thing is that we get to the quarter-finals.

"Dinamo, they beat Krasnodar twice. Krasnodar is a Russian team and it's never easy to play them. 

"In the group stage, of course they won it, not only against Wolfsberger, but Feyenoord and CSKA Moscow. They are every season in European competitions.

"I played against them with Real Madrid in the Champions League. Croatian football is Croatian football, lots of talent. It's a football country." 

Prior to the beginning of that tie on March 11, Mourinho is tasked with turning around Tottenham's poor Premier League form, starting with Sunday's home match against Burnley.

Spurs have lost five of their past six league matches, as many as they had in their previous 28, leaving them ninth in the table.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will renew acquaintances with Manchester United after the Red Devils were drawn against his Milan side in the Europa League last 16.

Sweden great Ibrahimovic spent just under two seasons with the Red Devils under Jose Mourinho, joining in July 2016 and departing in March 2018 to move to LA Galaxy.

During his first campaign at Old Trafford, Ibrahimovic missed out on United's Europa League final triumph against Ajax due to a serious knee injury and he will now aim to be the downfall of his former employers in this season's competition.

United have been eliminated by Milan in European knockout ties four times, the most of any side along with Real Madrid.

Arsenal, finalists as recently as 2019, will hope there is no sense of deja vu in their tie against Olympiacos. Mikel Arteta's side suffered a shock exit against the Greek outfit at the last-32 stage last season.

Mourinho is out to win the competition for a second time as a coach, and his Tottenham side face Dinamo Zagreb, while Roma have a tricky contest against Shakhtar Donetsk – who were the last winners of the tournament in its previous guise the UEFA Cup in 2009.

Rounding out the draw, Ajax face Young Boys, Slavia Prague go up against high-flying Scottish Premiership side Rangers, and Granada take on Molde.

Draw in full:

Ajax v Young Boys

Dinamo Kiev v Villarreal

Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk 

Olympiacos v Arsenal

Dinamo Zagreb v Tottenham

Manchester United v Milan 

Slavia Prague v Rangers

Granada v Molde

Mikel Arteta knew the real Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was back when he watched the Arsenal striker get mad at himself for missing a penalty in training.

A double from Aubameyang rescued Arsenal's Europa League campaign against Benfica on Thursday, with his second goal, a late header, securing a 3-2 win and a 4-3 aggregate triumph.

The Gunners had been in danger of going out on the away-goals rule at the last-32 stage, having been designated as the home side for the game which was moved to Greece because of travel restrictions between the UK and Portugal.

But it was Aubameyang who saved the day, assisted by the increasingly impressive Bukayo Saka for the second time in the game.

Last season's FA Cup final hero, Aubameyang endured a dry spell in front of goal earlier this season but has scored eight times in 10 games in 2021 so far, at a rate of one every 98.25 minutes.

On Sunday, Arsenal return to domestic duties with a tough trip to third-placed Leicester City.

Arteta wants Aubameyang and Arsenal to kick on in the Premier League and sustain their challenge in Europe, safe in the knowledge their captain is back to his focused best.

"Sometimes when you go through difficult moments, you can have those difficult moments and get into a sad mode," said Arteta. "I think that's the worst thing you can do because nobody has to feel sorry for themselves when you're having those moments.

"What you have to do is get upset, get angry, work harder and approach the situation and face it - face the challenge in a way that creates more motivation and more hunger to do it, and I think in recent weeks I've seen that reaction.

"For example, in a training session before we played here he missed a penalty and he was really upset.

"Instead of going sad he got upset, and I said to the coaching staff that I like that and that he would be fine [against Benfica]. When you have that mentality, I think that's the right way to approach it.

"He is getting into much better positions, his rhythm during the games is much better with and without the ball, his movement.

"The week before when we played Benfica, he had three big chances and I am not worried about him missing them because I know if he gets in those positions, he is going to be scoring consistently so this is what he has to demand of himself.

"If we have Auba at his best, as a team we obviously have a much better chance to be successful."

Arteta, who said Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers should be a contender to be named manager of the season, has seen his team drop to 11th in the Premier League.

The late winner against Benfica felt like a moment that could swing their season, and Arteta's tenure, in a positive direction. Had Arsenal gone out, there may have been talk of a crisis.

"All the winners in European competition have to have a magic moment, a moment of luck, have to be able to overcome difficult situations. It's a good experience to have together," Arteta said. "Hopefully we can use it for the future in the next games."

A Champions League place is on offer to the Europa League winners, and that is Arsenal's only realistic short-term route back to the elite level.

Arteta spoke of that factor and said: "Obviously it is all the time in our mind because we know our league position at the moment. That has to improve dramatically but if we do well in this competition it gives us an extra chance and a hope to achieve something this season."

Saka shared the spotlight with Aubameyang on Thursday and Arteta said of the 19-year-old winger: "How good can he be is a question nobody can answer.

"He is a boy that is constantly willing to learn, to get better, to work on the things he can do better and he is a very humble and hard working boy. When that happens normally, and you have the talent he has, you can go a long way."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer expects Manchester United supporters to see plenty more of Shola Shoretire in the future after the 17-year-old's history-making appearance against Real Sociedad on Thursday. 

Shoretire, who made his senior debut in United's Premier League win over Newcastle United at the weekend, was introduced for the final 14 minutes of the 0-0 draw with La Real to become the Red Devil's youngest ever player in European competition at the age of 17 years and 23 days. 

He was unable to make much of an impact as United booked their Europa League last-16 spot with a 4-0 aggregate victory over their LaLiga opponents, but Solskjaer believes the club have a hugely promising player on their hands. 

"Shola will be a good player for us," the United boss said at a media conference. "Sometimes you need to test them against good players and we know Real Sociedad are a good team and have good individuals, who press. Shola and Amad [Diallo] will need introductions to this level. 

"He is a young kid that we believe in; he has a great attitude. You can see the shape of him, psychically he'll be an athlete. Technically, he's very good and he makes good decisions.

"He's grounded, he works hard in training and he's a likeable boy who we hope we can see loads of in the future."

Mikel Oyarzabal missed an early penalty for La Real after Daniel James had fouled Andoni Gorosabel inside the area as United extended their unbeaten run in the Europa League at Old Trafford to 15 matches. 

Solskajer acknowledged the importance of that miss – the first failed penalty attempt at Old Trafford against the home side since Everton's Leighton Baines in October 2014 – to the result, which ensured United have progressed from all five of their last-32 ties in the Europa League. 

"We played against a very good team," he added. "They got an early penalty and thankfully they missed it. We didn't want to go into half-time one or two goals down. Of course, we are pleased to get through unscathed.

"I felt the first 10-15 mins were a bit slow, but we played some good stuff in the first half. In the second half we were not good with the ball, but we defended well. It just proves how good the performance last week was."

United are next in action on Sunday when they travel to Thomas Tuchel's in-form Chelsea in the Premier League.

Stefano Pioli hailed Milan's "mature mentality" as he acknowledged his team are going through a rough patch of form.

Milan scraped into the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday, as a 1-1 draw with Red Star Belgrade was enough to seal an away goals victory from a tie which finished 3-3 on aggregate.

Franck Kessie's early spot-kick – his seventh penalty goal of the season in all competitions – saw Milan through, with El Fardou Ben's equaliser proving to be in vain.

Gianluigi Donnarumma marked his 22nd birthday with a sensational save to deny Red Star a second, with Marko Gobeljic then seeing red as the visitors' comeback efforts were fruitless.

It was the first time Milan have progressed from a two-legged European tie having not won the first game since 2006-07, when Carlo Ancelotti went on to guide the Rossoneri to their seventh European Cup.

However, it is now four games without a win for Milan, who have lost their last two Serie A fixtures, including Sunday's damaging 3-0 derby defeat to title rivals Inter.

Pioli, though, insists he has faith in his squad to overcome their loss of form and learn from the mistakes they are making.

"The team might be young, but it has a mature mentality," he told Sky Italia. 

"Clearly, we are not in our best period of form. The many victories gave us energy and confidence, so now those elements are lacking a little bit.

"It's a pity we didn't control the situation better, with a little more precision in our passing and our choices, but the important thing was to qualify.

"At this level, it’s about details and the tiniest margins can make a big difference.

"If we think about our season, it's still full of positivity. The season doesn't end here, winning the Europa League does give you a place in the Champions League.

"We are making more mistakes and aren't as solid as we were in the past, but it's a very important stepping stone and it's crucial that we managed to get through."

Asked to pinpoint why his team – who went unbeaten in Serie A this season until January 6 – have dropped off, Pioli said: "I do think perhaps there's some psychological fatigue more than physical.

"I try to stay with my players throughout the game, give them the right boost, but perhaps they are starting to feel the pressure.

"They shouldn't, because we are having a remarkable campaign and going through difficult moments will help us become stronger in future."

Brendan Rodgers blamed a lack of intensity, creativity and quality for Leicester City's Europa League exit as his own poor record in the competition's knockout stage continued.

The Foxes were favourites to progress from their last-32 tie with Slavia Prague after a goalless draw in the first leg, but succumbed to a 2-0 loss at the King Power Stadium on Thursday

Rodgers has now been eliminated from all five of his Europa League knockout ties as a manager (all last 32) – with Liverpool in 2012-13 and 2014-15, Celtic in 2017-18 and 2018-19 and Leicester this season.

"We didn't create enough over two legs. That's the reality," Rodgers told BT Sport.

"We didn't defend with any intensity. We gave away two disappointing goals.

"We got into some good areas but lacked quality when we arrived in them. We started pretty well and exploited some spaces in behind, but we didn't have enough quality to break them down.

"Before this game we were in three competitions and we wanted to give it our all. We know where our priorities are and now, we'll do our very best. We just lacked intensity and quality.

"Overall, the better team won and got through. We have to recover for the weekend."

Rodgers was without injured playmaker James Maddison while Harvey Barnes, their top scorer in Europe this season, started on the bench.

The Northern Irishman defended his decision to leave Barnes out of the starting line-up and felt those players selected were good enough to get them through the tie.

"We lost to the better team. I take responsibility for the team I've picked. I picked a team I felt could win the game," Rodgers added.

"Was it a game too far with our domestic commitments? Yes, but I don't want to give too many excuses. We had players not available tonight at the top end of the field. Guys that can make a difference for us.

"However, I still expected us to show up more. They'll learn from it, like they always do, and although we're disappointed to be out but we know we weren't good enough."

Leicester reaction

February 25, 2021

 

 

 

Mikel Arteta singled out Willian for "changing the game" against Benfica as Arsenal salvaged a dramatic victory to progress from Thursday's Europa League last-32 tie.

Arsenal, the designated home team, were on the brink of exiting the competition at the first knockout-stage hurdle for the second year running before a late turnaround on neutral soil in Greece.

Diogo Goncalves' impressive free-kick and Rafa Silva's finish into an empty net cancelled out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's opener to give Benfica a 3-2 aggregate lead.

Along with Thomas Partey, Willian was brought on two minutes later and the double change paid off as Arsenal hit back to salvage their campaign in the final half an hour.

Full-back Kieran Tierney lashed home and Aubameyang proved the match-winner three minutes from the end with a header to send Arsenal through 4-3 on aggregate.

Aubameyang took the plaudits with his late goal but Arteta felt Willian, who set up Tierney's goal, was the Gunners' real hero.

"Willian, specifically, I think he changed the game," Arteta said at his post-match news conference.

"He gave us much more composure in moments, produced some creativity, produced the goal for Kieran and we need everybody on board."

Willian completed 94 per cent of his 17 passes in the opposition half – the best return of any Arsenal player to have attempted at least three such passes.

The assist for Tierney's goal was the only key pass Willian played, with the Scotland international arrowing the ball away from Helton Leite at a crucial point in the tie.

Tierney, who became the first Scotsman to score for Arsenal in a major European competition since Willie Young against IFK Goteborg in March 1980 in the Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final, was also the recipient of individual praise from his manager.

"The way I'd describe him is all determination, all passion for what he does," the Spaniard said.

"The way he has come back from his injury and how willing he is to help the team. He gives us a big lift."

Aubameyang has now scored in seven of his last eight cup matches for Arsenal, netting 10 goals in total, with his only blank coming in the first leg against Benfica.

The Gabon international missed a big chance to send his side through at the same stage last season and is pleased to have put that miss against Olympiacos behind him.

"I definitely had that in my head but this is what gives me power every day to take the errors from the past and transform it to strength," he told BT Sport.

"The team showed a lot of character and we deserved the win. It was a hard game. What we showed tonight will be an example for the future."

Aubameyang now has 13 goals for the season in all competitions and Arteta added: "I completely trust him because we're producing the chances and you know when Auba has chances he's going to score goals."

Arsenal, who have now won on each of their last three visits to Greece, will learn their last-16 opponents in Friday's draw.

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