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Wenger prays Premier foes avoid Euro 'catastrophe'

ARSENE Wenger has admitted that he will be cheering on his Premier League rivals in Europe this week due to the "catastrophic" potential impact of Arsenal being the only English club to qualify for the knockout phase of the Champions League.

The Premier League currently has four guaranteed places in the Champions League each season, but that quota would be cut to three teams if results were to dip on a regular basis.

Despite playing in the Champions League for 15 consecutive years, Arsenal have only qualified by virtue of finishing fourth in the Premier League in four out of the past six seasons. It means that they could have most to lose if the number of English teams was reduced in future.

Arsenal's place in the last 16 is secure this season regardless of what happens against Olympiakos tonight but Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City could all be eliminated depending on results over the next two evenings.

Asked about the possibility of Arsenal being the only English club left standing, Wenger said: "That is a catastrophic scenario for England and would basically harm our places in Europe for the future.

"That's what you don't want -- that you go from four to three places. Hopefully that will not happen."

While Arsenal are already certain to finish top of Group F, Marseille, Olympiakos and Borussia Dortmund could all theoretically still qualify as runners-up. It has given Wenger the chance to rest key first-team players ahead of the busy Christmas schedule, with Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott, Laurent Koscielny, Wojciech Szczesny, Aaron Ramsey, Gervinho and Alex Song among those who did not travel to Athens on Monday.

"The priority is to respect the competition and to win our game," said Wenger. "I will go with a side who has experience and give the chance as well to some young players. We have a moral responsibility to give absolutely everything to win."